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My Lockdown: Noah enjoys fruitful 2020 as Peterborough Youth MP

Noah Salehi, a sixth-form student at Ormiston Bushfield Academy, became Peterborough's Youth MP in February with a record number of votes. Here Noah, who also works as a lifeguard at Premier Fitness, tells us about his year so far.
Noah
Noah Salehi, of Ormiston Bushfield Academy, has enjoyed his tenure as Peterborough Youth MP. Photo: PCC

I wasn't expecting to be elected as Youth MP, but I was happily surprised. What's also nice is that some of those who also stood are still regularly involved in the youth council and I still regularly see them. For example this week we are holding an online annual mental health conference, and that was partly organised by one of the other boys who stood.

I'd been in the council a year before standing for election so I was familiar with the process, and I always wanted to become MP, so it was very rewarding.

I've tried to make the best of the situation and done quite a bit in Peterborough and regionally. A month or so after election I was invited into a group chat with the other youth MPs from the region, and from around 40 MPs there are then elections to lead different groups.

I stood as leader for environmental protection and I got that - one of my manifesto pledges was how to mitigate climate change.

I also put forward a policy motion for a campaign known as Teach the Future. This is a campaign to emphasise more environmental-based learning in the curriculum. Let's say you were researching a type of literature in an English lesson. It may be possible through this policy motion to now have, rather than speeches from politicians researched, speeches to do with the environment.

That was passed at the annual youth conference, and it's now going to be voted on in the Make your Mark ballot.

Those were outside Peterborough, but in the city I emailed all the schools asking them what they were doing to with regards to climate change, and how they were keeping CO2 emissions low. We got some really good feedback - over 80% responded with information about their efforts. Some even said they wanted to have a longer conversation with me about the measures they're taking.

It was good to see that so many schools are engrossed in environmental protection. They also had ideas for what others could do, which allowed me to pass on recommendations for other schools.

I'm also part of a climate working group - a team of local councillors in Peterborough who are working to get the city to net zero carbon by 2030.

We look at the main primary polluters in Peterborough - I believe it's transport - and we look at ways of mitigating that. We also recently hosted a workshop and invited people and businesses in to talk about ways they were previously polluting, such as Queensgate and the bus station, and what they've done to reduce that. That allowed us to coalesce ideas and think about what we could do to further reduce emissions.

I used the word injustices in my manifesto, and I was referring to an inept education system. 

I had sampled between 400 and 500 students across the city about what their main issues were regarding politics and schooling, and there was an overwhelming consensus that learning wasn't doing it for them. So in my manifesto I wanted more pupils to learn life skills - greater mental health awareness and financial skills, for example.

We've put together a financial skills document that can be given to students to teach them about mortgages, loans and debt, and this is really what they've been asking for, especially in Peterborough - a curriculum that helps them learn how to live.

I think mental health issues are widely overlooked by teachers and that needs to be a rigorous system in place to help students in need. We worked towards that in the Life Skills Learning document. A few members of the youth council have emailed a letter to schools to help advise students how to cope if they're feeling down and depressed during lockdown.

It's affected people in a lot of different ways. Some welcomed lockdown and wanted it to happen again, and that's fair play to them, but others have struggled to cope with it. I do sympathise with them, so that letter was a means for them to distract themselves, or if they felt overwhelmed it gave them numbers they could call to assist them.

I am hoping to study philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford or in London, and after that I would like a career in politics as an MP, a cabinet member and maybe even Prime Minister one day - who knows? But really anything to do with politics such as journalism or in the financial sector. 

I always say that politics is opinion - and everyone has them. So with the right means anyone and everyone can get involved and enjoy it.

We have 10 to 15 active members in the youth council and we'd love to see that double or triple. We're going to be running an advertising campaign to try to make that happen. 

I feel like there is a conventional wisdom that youth have no power or influence within politics, so that leads to a tendency not to engage with it. I hope that we can give young people a chance to be empowered and get involved.





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