Insights into the lives and views of young people
The five-year ESRC-funded study ‘Young Lives, Young Futures’, a collaboration between researchers at King’s and The Edge Foundation, is taking a similar approach, drawing on processes of co-production with key stakeholders to help policymakers develop greater insight into the lives and perspectives of young people.
Led by Dr Sharon Gewirtz, Professor of Education, and working with PhD student Alice Weavers, among others, the project is shedding light on the experiences of young people, gathering insights through a range of methods including a national survey of over 10,000 young people and in-depth individual interviews with 122 young people.
A recent report based on the first wave of project data has highlighted a number of worrying findings, including that for nearly 1 in 2 young people aged 15-16, secondary school is not an enjoyable or meaningful experience but rather something they need to ‘get through’ because of its bearing on their futures. Conversely, young people who had left mainstream school for alternative education provision or vocational education and training described having more meaningful and supportive relationships with teachers and a feeling of greater autonomy and choice over what and how they learned.
Young people and policymaking
The active involvement of young people in research can have a transformative impact on the quality and relevance of the findings. By recognising young people as valuable contributors to knowledge generation, ECS researchers are shaping a future based on collaborative and equal decision-making.
This is the topic of Alice Weavers’ PhD study: building on her previous work on government youth voice projects in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Alice is exploring how young people could be more involved in national policymaking. She has found that there is a disconnect between most young people and government policy as many young people are not sure where to go to share their views, and don’t feel listened to despite wanting to get involved with finding solutions to issues that affect them.
Alice is now advocating for the creation of a platform, gov.uk/youth, which would inform young people about government policy, including how their views could make a difference to policy decisions. It would also engage them in participation opportunities.
These projects show how the concept of child and youth participation is now being understood broadly to encompass new research methods and ways of engaging with young people. Through listening to them, amplifying their voices and creating meaningful partnerships, it is hoped we can build a more equal and inclusive society.