Students campaign to raise the age of criminal responsibility

LaSWAP students Sam and Katy 

LaSWAP students Samanta Abreu Franco and Katy Corteel - Credit: LaSWAP

Three north London sixth formers are celebrating after winning a competition to come up with and run a political campaign.

Katy Corteel, Samanta Abreu Franco and Ellie Lawton-Byrne from LaSWAP Sixth Form Consortium were winners of The Talent Foundry’s Inspire US programme.

They worked on a campaign to raise the age of criminal responsibility, raising awareness that at present children as young as 10 years old can be held responsible for their actions and entered into the criminal justice system, making England and Wales outliers in Europe and much of the rest of the world.

The team used surveys and focus groups within two of the LaSWAP schools - William Ellis and Parliament Hill - to formulate their initial ideas, before raising awareness of their campaign with social media.

They spoke to people working in both Stormont and Westminster; as well as local politicians, before organising debates.

 Katy said: “I have very much enjoyed the experience of taking part in the Inspire US 2020 competition. It led me to find an issue that I am passionate about and has helped me to further develop my research and communication skills.

"Throughout this process I have discovered just how little is known and understood about the very young age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales and how much it is in need of reform. I intend to continue campaigning to raise awareness about this very important issue."

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As part of the programme, social mobility charity The Talent Foundry launched a Masterclass series in September 2020, organising weekly sessions with American political experts ahead of the election. In previous years, winning students have taken part in a political internship to Washington DC.

Although that has not been possible for the LaSWAP students, The Talent Foundry is working to secure them with personalised coaching from a US congressman to further their campaign experience. They have also been invited to attend a mid-term trip to the USA to support on an election campaign and mentor young students.

Flora Wilson, director of Sixth Form at William Ellis School, said praised the team, saying: "I am particularly impressed that they have run such a detailed and effective campaign whilst also maintaining their excellent academic progress and grades."

LaSWAP comprises four campuses based in La Sainte Union, William Ellis, Acland Burghley and Parliament Hill schools.