BBC director general declares support for votes at 16 during Camden school visit
- Credit: Archant
The director general of the BBC declared his support for changing the voting age to 16 during a talk to school pupils in Camden today.
Lord Tony Hall said he thought the current voting age of 18 should be reduced, while addressing 150 students and teachers at La Sainte Union School in Dartmouth Park.
His statement came in response to a student’s question and was welcomed with excited chatter from the audience of students from La Swap sixth form consortium, comprising La Sainte Union, William Ellis, Acland Burghley and Parliament Hill schools.
He said: “I think I’d go for 16. What was really key about watching the younger people taking part in the Scottish referendum campaign was that they got very excited about it.”
When asked whether they agreed, almost half of students in the audience raised their hands.
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Sixth-former Nawrin Alufer, 17, who lives in Bermondsey, said: “I think Lord Hall changed some people’s opinions. When he asked if we should vote at 16, the opinions were really varied.
“At the beginning I thought 16 was a bit too young to vote, but after his talk I thought that 16 is a good age because you start to learn a lot more about politics.”
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Fellow student Yassin Njie, 17, from Finchley, said: “I think 16-year-olds should be able to vote. I think we should have a say because it’s going to affect us.
“But they need to make us more aware, and they need to make it appeal to us young people.
“They need to do more fun things to get us engaged with it. And I think politics should be compulsory in secondary school.”
Speaking about the importance of voting and the role of the BBC in democracy, Lord Hall encouraged students to make an informed decision.
“I really urge you to vote, and if it’s for the first time, enjoy it too,” he said. “Because it’s an important moment for our democracy, and the BBC has a big role there, which is actually putting voters in touch with the people who seek to lead this country.”
Lord Hall described the BBC’s responsibility to deliver accurate, reliable and impartial information in the run up to the general election in May.
“At the heart of the BBC is the idea that we are acting on behalf of you to find out the truth, to find out what’s happening,” he said.
“As ever in election campaigns there’ll be bumps, but what I want to leave you with is the idea that information matters and I think the BBC’s role matters too.”
Emma Jones, head of sixth form at La Sainte Union, said: “The students came away saying that was the best talk they’ve ever been to. They were inspired, they felt hopeful, and they felt really energised by hearing him speak.”
Abbie Mahon, a student from Camden, said: “A lot of people our age don’t vote, so I think it’s important for someone to come in and give us the information and motivate us to have a say.”
Lord Hall was invited to La Sainte Union as part of the Speakers for Schools initiative. The charity provides young people in state schools across the UK free access to inspirational speakers.
Last week, the organisation launched a two-week apolitical campaign to engage young people in politics, with talks by David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Jon Snow and Natalie Bennett.
Andrew Law, chairman of Speakers for Schools board of trustees, said: “Our polling confirms that politics does indeed matter to students, with an overwhelming majority caring about it.”