University Professor labels GCSE subject as a ‘Cinderella’ class

Should 16-17 year olds be allowed to vote in the general election?

  • Young people unaware of who their local councillor are
  • Teachers not confident to educate students on politics
  • University professor labels Citizenship as a ‘Cinderella’ class
  • Voting an adult responsibility but other laws still legal age of 18

Professor Jonathan Tonge, academic in the Department of Politics Studies at the University of Liverpool has expressed that lowering the voting age would  be a ‘massive’ responsibility for 16-17 years olds.

jon tonge

Professor Jonathan Tonge

(Image: University of Liverpool)

Prof Tonge, Director of Postgraduate Research in Politics is also former Chair of the British Youth Citizenship Commission.

In an interview, he told us more about his former role as Chair of YCC:

I was chair of the YCC (British Youth Citizenship Commission) in 2008-09.

We were challenged to promote youth participation in the political process and to educate youth in citizenship.

We primarily focused on young people aged 11-19 from disadvantaged populations. We would help them develop the concepts of citizenship”

(Chair Dr Andrew Mycock and participants Professor Jon Tonge, Professor Gerry Stoker, Jonathan Birdwell and Marc Kidson answering questions from students at an 2014 Youth Citizenship Commission event)

Jonathan added:

We have considered whether the voting age should be lowered to 16 after exploring how the government could be more responsive to youth needs.”

The University Director has also published 14 books and dozens of journal articles on various aspects of British and Irish politics.

In an article published in 2013 by the BBC, the academic explained why Liverpool never loved Margaret Thatcher.

Anti-Thatcher Protest by Hayes MKII, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Hayes MKII
(Messages of hatred after former PM Margret Thatcher died)
Prof Tonge told us his view on a GCSE subject he is passionate about improving:

“Citizenship today is a ‘Cinderella’ class, no wonder why students struggle to engage in political activity.

I feel the issue is how young people define Citizenship, some are eve unaware of who their local councillor are!

Why is there not a GCSE option in politics yet? It’s probably because teacher’s don’t feel confident enough to teach pupils on the political process.

We need to empower young people and improve their knowledge on politics in the UK, this currently remains as an outside class activity.”


Young people lack understanding of the political process in the UK

Eleanor Cuthbert-Edkins, former student at Arthur Terry Secondary School told us her experience of learning Citizenship at GCSE:

“Citizenship was a complete waste of time, the lesson was disjointed because we use to have a different teacher each week and 80% of our lessons would be watching videos. It was a bit of a ‘doss’ really, I felt like I walked away having not learned much.”

University academic Jonathan Tonge said that the majority of his BA and Postgraduate politics students are against lowering the voting age to 16.

The Politics Studies degree at the University of Liverpool has seen an increase in applications over recent years.

Impressed by the overwhelming demand, Jonathan added:

Our politics degree has been in high demand over recent years but it’s unfair for these young people wanting to pursue a career in this subject having to pay such high tuition fees.

I think that political parties use tuition fees as a way of gaining votes from young people 18+ who are thinking of going to University.

It will be interesting to see who wins this year’s general election and whether our future MP will keep to his promises.”

Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour party has pledged that they will lower the voting age to 16 if Labour is to win the next general election.

Two teenagers have debated on the issue of whether the voting age should be lowered,published in The Guardian. One student claimed that ‘uncertainty’ is the reason as to why the law hasn’t been changed yet, people don’t believe youngsters are ‘mature’ enough to vote.

Do you think that the voting age should be lowered to 16? Tweet us @Bhameastside and don’t forget to use the hashtag #BRUMVOTE


Low income and delays in benefits are considered as ‘major issues’ for driving demand on foodbanks

It was announced today by the UK’s biggest foodbank charity, The Trussell Trust that the foodbank have hit record numbers for the first time in history.

The number of people that have been referred to Trussell Trust’s network of over 400 foodbanks to receive an emergency supply of food has increased by 19% since 2013/14

(Source:  Above: Trussell Trust statistics showing a dramatic increase in the number of referrals to foodbanks over recent years up until now.
Above: Trussell Trust statistics showing a dramatic increase in the number of referrals to foodbanks over recent years up until now.

The figures published by the charity today (22/04) show that over 1,000,000 people in the last twelve months have received an emergency 3 day supply of food provided by the foodbanks.

The food donated by the local community provides meals for 90% of foodbank referrals.

Trussell Trust UK foodbank director Adrian Curtis says:

‘Despite welcome signs of economic recovery, hunger continues to affect significant numbers of men, women and children in the UK today. It’s difficult to be sure of the full extent of the problem as Trussell Trust figures don’t include people who are helped by other food charities or those who feel too ashamed to seek help.

A mum at a children’s holiday lunch club said that she was skipping meals to feed her children but couldn’t bring herself go to a foodbank, saying: “There are people out there more desperate than me. I’ve got a sofa to sell before I’ll go to the food bank,”

Trussell Trust's foodbanks don't just feed adults... There are thousands of children living in poverty too.
Trussell Trust’s foodbanks don’t just feed adults… There are thousands of children living in poverty too.

A recent survey taken by 86 foodbank managers found that 90% believe that low income is the most alerting issue that is driving demand for the charity’s network of foodbanks.

Administrative delays in paying benefits also won 84% of the vote as a ‘major issue’ contributing to the high demand of foodbanks.

People working in a job role on minimum wage are struggling more than the ever before, creating difficultly to feed themselves and other mouths in the household.

Between 2014-15, over 30,000 care line professionals such as social workers, health visitors and school liaison officers referred people to the Trussell Trust foodbanks. These trained professionals can refer someone if they happen to spot the signs that someone may be struggling and is need of emergency food.

These potential signs could be a dramatic weight loss, hunger pains, depression or stress.

The client is provided with a red slip after being referred from a care line professional giving them access to a maximum supply of 3 days emergency food that is nutritionally designed and prepared from The Trussell Trust picking lists.

Stechford foodbank

Stechford foodbank is situated at All Saints Church; it first opened in February 2014 and runs on the donations and support from the local community.

Faydene Gillings-Grant, Project Manager at Stechford foodbank preparing emergency food from the picking list.
Faydene Gillings-Grant, Project Manager at Stechford foodbank preparing emergency food from the picking list.

John Hemming, Liberal Democrat MP for Yardley Constituency has said he is working closely with Stechford foodbank to identify the key reasons of the rising number of referrals.

He has to have found issues relating to ‘habitual residence’ and states he welcomes the team’s willingness to support the local people in need.

In their first year, Stechford foodbank have helped over 1,000 people by providing them with emergency food.

Faydene Gillings-Grant, Project Manager at Stechford foodbank said:

“These figures are heart-breaking but we are glad to be able to make a difference in association with our colleagues across the network and bless our families and our neighbourhood here in Stechford and surrounding areas”

Supermarket help

Last year, Tesco was the first national supermarket to team up with the charity and host regular collections in-store.

The supermarket giant work closely with The Trussell Trust and Fareshare to fight food poverty because they believe no-one should go hungry.

Last year, Tesco provided 4.7 million meals to help feed people in need by topping up donations by 30% through their last collection.

( Map of regional breakdown showing the amount of people in reach region who were give 3 days of emergency food.
( Map of regional breakdown showing the amount of people in reach region who were give 3 days of emergency food.

If you know someone who may be struggling to feed their family, please visit – you can also find your local foodbank on the map.

5 Essential Tips for 15-17 year olds – Prepare to Vote!

The general election is nearly here and there is already an on-going debate whether to extend the vote to under 18’s. Read our five useful tips on how to prepare for your vote.

  1. The Immature Voter VS The Wise Voter

It’s not about which party you may think will lower the drinking age or who will ban homework entirely – This vote is yours so make it worth it!

Don’t be encouraged by anyone else’s opinion, if you hate how David Cameron’s run the country over the last couple of years then do something about it and VOTE!

Tip: Do your research and read what parties are promising if they are to gain power? Conservatives want to create more jobs for your age group; maybe this will help you get a job?

  1. “I’ve heard it all before” – The boring political party broadcasts


They may seem like they’re repeating themselves but really, these party leaders just want to remind you what they will do if they have your vote so listen!

It’s like battle of the parties where David Cameron is offering an unlimited supply of crisps whilst Ed Miliband will offer you an unlimited supply of Chocolate… You’re either a sweet or savoury person. Vote for whom you think may make your country a better place

  1. The “I don’t have time” excuse


So say if under 18’s could vote, how many would actually turn up?

The “I don’t have time” excuse is simply not acceptable! OK – So you young people have a lot going on with school, homework and maybe even part-time jobs to juggle but you are not the only ones!

How about applying to vote by post? This may be a more convenient way to suit your busy lifestyle.

To find out more about voting by post visit

You could also vote by proxy meaning you can send someone trustworthy on your behalf to cast your vote

  1. Stand up to be counted!


Sky News now has an open space for young people aged 16-25 where they can speak out and debate issues which really matter.

University fee’s getting in the way of your career or maybe you’re unhappy with how much your boss pays you? This is a great place to express your views and rant to people your age.

The question is do you think more could be done to educate and empower young people to ensure that the General Election 2015 doesn’t only have a high vote turnout but also an informed one?

Have your say:

  1. What is your school doing in the run-up to the General Election?


In the run-up to the General Election in May, some schools are having lively discussions and are engaging with politics.

Maybe invite local politicians in to your school to spark an interest or host your own mock election?

This is a great day to discuss your views and opinions with fellow students in your class, you could maybe even create your own political survey to see which party ranks the highest?

Politics can be fun too you know! Enjoy Voting!



13 Million People Living Below The Poverty Line In The UK

1st December 2014

There are a reported 13 million people in the UK living below the poverty line.

Everyday in the UK, more people go hungry due to countless reasons whether they’ve been made redundant or have received an unexpected bill on a low income. The Trussell Trust food banks are situated around the UK to help families in a crisis with a minimum of three days emergency food.

Care line professionals refer clients to the foodbank after the final decision that someone is in need of emergency food. The red slip required as proof from referral agencies gives client’s access to 3 days of food that is nutritionally designed from the picking lists. Foodbanks take all the extra worries off client’s shoulders by putting food on the table for the family and allowing some breathing space.

Trussell Trust, founded in 1997 by Carol & Paddy Henderson began in Bulgaria with a project to improve living conditions for 60+ children sleeping at Central Railway Station. The trust’s work soon expanded to the UK with shocking results that showed the significant number of local people who are facing hunger from a sudden crisis.

The Trust’s expanding network of foodbanks fed 913,138 people between 2013-14 with 330,205 being children. Stechford foodbank has been open since February 2014, situated at All Saints Church; there are approximately 31 volunteers who donate their time to help others living in crisis.

Faydene Gillings-Grant, Stechford Foodbank’s project manager said: “We are very grateful for all the donations and support from the local community. Whilst preparing for Christmas, we are in need for extra volunteers who are able to donate a few hours a week to help out at the food-bank.

It’s upsetting that some clients once felt ashamed to approach us for help, we are here to make them feel accepted and that they’re not alone. We’re non-judgemental and it’s not our job to give advice but we do signpost leading our clients in the right direction to seek help with their worries.”

The Trussell Trust has recently completed a nationwide food collection, in partnership with Tesco and Fareshare. You can donate to your local Tesco store to help stop people going hungry in your community – simply pick up one of the Trust’s shopping lists and donate items at your nearest store.

Tesco are the first national supermarket to team up with foodbanks to host regular collections in-store. They have also agreed to ‘top-up’ food donations by 30% making customers gift go a mile further. Tesco – the UK’s largest supermarket are working with The Trusell Trust and Fareshare to fight food poverty because no one should go hungry.

Anne Danks – The Foodbank Network manager for Northern England said: “All our volunteers are fully-trained to deal with vulnerable people that are suffering a crisis.

It’s astonishing that the reality for some families is the decision to feed themselves or their children as income may be low, or there is a benefit delay. The foodbank is here for provide emergency food for a 3-day period and to take away the pressure to feed the family allowing them to have some ‘breathing space’ to get back on track. The minimum wage is low, power company prices are soaring and there may be extra mouths to feed – we’re not here to judge, but give our clients a sense of acceptation that they’re not alone.”

To donate, you can find your nearest foodbank, by visiting

“An electrical fire destroyed our loving-family home and left us homeless”

24th November 14

 A family from Yardley were left homeless when a serve fire destroyed their house in September last year.

The family home in Lodge Drive, Yardley went up in flames back in September 2013 and destroyed the whole house in less than twenty minutes – even spreading through to neighbouring homes.

Four engines with 19 fire fighters on board were called to the scene in early hours of the morning with worries that the family were trapped inside their the blaze.

On arrival, Collum O’Brien was found with minor injuries and was taken to Heartlands hospital.

Gaynor O’Brien, who was in Paris at the time when the blaze started said: “Me and Niamh were in France and coming home to the fire-fighter’s carrying our burnt possessions out the house felt like a living nightmare. I’m fortunate that my family are safe; I class myself as one of the ‘lucky ones’. Our neighbours, friends and family have been very supportive over the past year and I’m very excited to be moving back in just in time for Christmas and the New Year”

The O’Brien’s are due to move back in to their Yardley home later this week, the house which has been re-built now includes a loft conversion, white tiled kitchen and on-suite bathrooms.

The only thing that survived the fire was a large chest full of old photographs of Miss O’Brien and her older brother – who at the time was in London and had no idea until reading about his house on Birmingham Updates.

Collum O’Brien commented: “Our neighbours have been so supportive through our journey, at one stage we were practically homeless with no money or fresh clothes. We were housed in local premier inns with no secure place to stay until Mr.Lane (close friend and landlord) housed us whilst our home was being rebuilt. I’m just extremely eager to move in now where we can begin to decorate for Christmas and put the past behind us”

Forensic scientists have thought that it was an electrical fire that set the O’Brien household up in flames. It was a vicious fire due to all doors and windows being open at the time that fuelled oxygen and allowed the fire to spread in to each room within less than twenty minutes.

Niamh O’Brien said: “I am still absolutely devastated that we lost everything but the most important thing is that no-one got hurt. It’s been a hard year with a lot of stress and worry. My friends and work have been very supportive – I hope 2015 is a better year and brings us some well-deserved luck!”

These days there’s only 3 of us

The 90’s heartthrobs are back with their new album ‘|||’ and a UK Tour but minus Robbie Williams AND Jason Orange this time round.

It was announced in September that Jason Orange quit the band after admitting he did not want to commit to recording or promoting a new album. Williams, 40 has also gone his own way to concentrate on his solo career leaving the trio of members – Gary Barlow, Mark Owen and Howard Donald.

Take That have scored their 12th Number 1 single with ‘These Days’, taken from their new studio album ‘|||’ which is released today.

Last month, fans were left disappointed after expensive ticket prices and high demand to see the lads perform on their UK Arena tour in 2015.

Yvonne Cowley, was one of the unlucky fans unable to get tickets: “Getting Take That tickets is ridiculous – No matter how many devices I have set up for 9am, they all still crash! It’s like gold dust, I always go for the trustworthy ticket sellers like Ticket Factory which crashed for several hours due to experiencing high demand.”

Robbie William’s has also surprised fans today with a brand new album ‘Under The Radar – Volume 1’ featuring some old and new material.

Barlow, 43 commented: “About two years ago Rob mentioned that he had a lot of songs and had no idea what to do with them – he said about putting them on an album one day but we had no idea it’d be released the same day as ours”

The remaining band mate also added ‘Take That is five people, exactly when they come back is up to them’ – does this mean another reunion is on the cards lads?


Birmingham fans left battered and bruised from Example Gig

Chart-topper Elliot Gleave, also known by his stage name as Example left fans battered and bruised last night after playing his only night at Birmingham’s O2 Academy on his UK tour.

Example performed a selection of his smash-hits including Changed The Way You Kissed Me, Kickstarts and Kids Again. After the release of his fifth album, ‘Live Life Living’ Example announced he’d be performing for one night in Birmingham on his UK tour.

Zoe Taylor, who attended last night’s gig said: “I’ve seen Example live before, but in larger venues. I always stand to see artists live as it’s a great atmosphere and vibe.

Last night I seen many grown adults gunning for a fight, it was a lot rougher compared to the previous times I’ve seen him – that could be down to the venue size. I feel a sense of acceptation in most crowds for being a smaller girl, this was not the case in last night as I had tall men barging me and my brother”

Ian Dooley who also in the crowd for Example last night said: “I thought that the Example tickets were quite pricey for the size of the venue. I usually pay between £10-£20 to see artists perform at the O2 Academy. I’m not questioning the price in terms of experience – but how are people suppose to enjoy themselves when the crowd is full of idiots acting ‘hard’”

Were you at last night’s Birmingham gig? Let me know your thoughts by commenting below. You can also purchase Example’s new album ‘Live, Life Living’ on iTunes now!