Lydiard Park Academy student Ellie James, 16, has been elected Swindon’s member of the UK Youth Parliament.
Wilf Steenbergen-Cockerton from Grange Park will be deputy member for Swindon, and the other candidates Sheryl Hadgkiss and Lyndsey Weaver are being invited to join the Swindon Youth Forum which is coordinated by Swindon Ten to Eighteen Project (STEP).
All young people 11 to 18 year old registered with an educational or youth organisation in Swindon and Royal Wootton Basset were eligible to vote – although the school or organisation had to make contact with Swindon STEP for ballot forms.
Ellie polled 39 per cent of the 4,870 votes cast at 11 secondary schools with seven schools not taking part.
Fitting campaigning around her GCSE studies, Ellie, wrote to all schools in the town to promote her election message which was concerned about importance of education rather than becoming a teenage parent. Her half-sister was a teenage parent, and although a successful mother of two healthy children, Ellie said her dreams of a career working with animals had been put on hold by motherhood.
Before the result of the election was announced in Swindon Council chamber at the Civic Offices 17 February, each candidate presented their election pitch to Robert Buckland MP for South Swindon, Deputy Mayor of Swindon councillor Teresa Page, Swindon councillors, parents and supporters.
Wilf promoted the need for zero-tolerance of bullying in schools to make life safer for all young people. Lyndsey wants to see more opportunities for young people to engage in creative and performing arts, whilst Sheryl campaigned to promote a healthy mind and a healthy body for a healthy future.
An emotional Ellie said she was shocked to be chosen as the town’s representative. “It’s a fantastic feeling to have the backing of young people across Swindon. I enjoyed putting together my campaign; as it went on and I thought harder about the need for girls to think about their education rather than becoming teenage parents, the more passionate I became about being the youth MP so I could pursue the issues. Thank you to all the people who voted for me.”
Robert Buckland said the contributions from the candidates had been inspirational. "The theme between the four candidates was their concern for the quality of life in the future. They showed they care deeply about society and the needs of young people; I’m really looking forward to working with Ellie and Wilf and the youth forum on the issues that concern them.
STEP manager Paul Dobson said the issues raised by each candidate will form the campaigning points for the next two years. He said: "The youth parliament election process is a really good way to find out what are a large number of young people are concered with and to frame the agenda for the Swindon Youth Forum."
Right, Ellie and Wilf with South Swindon MP Robert Buckland and Deputy Mayor of Swindon councillor Teresa Page. All photos by Richard Wintle of Calyx
Read Ellie’s election pitch on swindonlink.com
Watch her election video
• Ellie is the second student from Lydiard Park Academy (previously Greendown School) in recent years to be elected as Swindon UKYP member. Carney Bonner was youth MP in 2010 and campaigned against cyber-bullying.