Following in the footsteps of democracy

Published on: 01 Sep 2014

Riley Cox, pictured with Cllr Ian Boulton

A DOWNEND School Post 16 student has been finding out about the world of politics by shadowing the former chairman of South Gloucestershire Council.

Riley Cox, 17, first met Staple Hill councillor Ian Boulton when he visited Downend School to talk about youth engagement in politics during his year as council chairman.

When Riley found out about a national shadowing programme he decided it would be a great experience to follow Cllr Boulton.

The Shadow a Councillor Award Programme was set up to give young people the opportunity to shadow their councillor for a minimum of 10 working hours to enhance their understanding of local politics and the role of local councillors.  

Riley said: “Along with many other students I followed Ian on Twitter after his visit as he consistently responds to political questions on social media, and this was a useful outlet for me to ask to shadow him.”

During his week at the council, Riley attended a full council meeting, a youth sub-committee, a briefing with a political researcher to learn about the local political system, planning and development meetings and a consultation about the old Staple Hill Primary School. 

Riley said: “I found the experience really enlightening, I’ve learned so much. I feel I’m getting closer to being able to make the judgement of whether or not this system works.  The award made me realise how little youth input there is in politics.  When you look at the average age of councillors, it becomes very clear why so many young people are disengaged.” 

Riley also experienced the day-to-day realities of local politics by meeting up with residents.

He said: “Walking through Staple Hill High Street with the local councillor and being stopped by locals on four separate occasions within 10 minutes was really quite a memorable moment. This is what politics is all about. I’d certainly recommend this award to anyone  interested in how things work locally.”

Councillor Boulton said: “It was a pleasure to work with Riley who, while he was working to achieve this award, was able to provide some useful insights on some important local projects we are working on. Whatever direction he takes in the future, I am sure Riley will play an active role in the political process. I predict we will hear good things about Riley Cox in the years to come.”

Riley was so enamoured with his time at South Gloucestershire Council, he has now set up a week’s work experience with Filton and Bradley Stoke MP Jack Lopresti in October.

His interest in politics won’t end there though. The teenager hopes to study Politics and International Relations at university from next September and is keenly focused on improving youth engagement with politics.

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