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31 March, 2011

London children make their voices heard at City Hall

On Tuesday 29 March, the debating Chamber at City Hall hosted some important decision makers: primary school children recently tasked with deciding which pressing social problems should merit their support and attention.

Two hundred pupils represented their peers in 29 primary schools from across Greater London at a citywide celebration event. The children showcased their campaigns to make a difference to the issues that matter to them most.

Since January, these schools have taken part in the annual Go-Givers Make a Difference Challenge, an opportunity for children aged between seven and eleven to take the lead on identifying and researching matters of concern to them.

Their selected causes are as creative and as adult as the solutions they generate. Among many others, they include global warming, anti-racism, the plight of child carers and helping service personell.

The imaginative campaigns were reflected in the children's celebratory performances at City Hall. Pupils rapped against racism, danced for disaster relief, strummed guitars in a struggle for equal access to education, and simulated news reports on the clean water crisis in the developing world.

An audience of educationalists, MPs and philanthropists witnessed that no one is too young to be an active citizen. Children of this age are not often asked how they can help make a difference, let alone entrusted with full ownership of the task.

Ten-year-old Madlen Rafferty makes an impassioned plea: ‘there isn't a way to get thoroughly involved! I feel at the moment children's voices aren't being heard, we seem to be drowned out by the monstrous bellows of adults'. For one morning, at least, her plea was addressed; roles were reversed as children's performing voices filled the Chamber's extraordinary helical ceiling.

As Rebecca Scott, class teacher at Warren Road Primary in Bromley, said, the project ‘raises children's awareness of issues beyond the school gates and [they] learn that their voices matter and they can make a difference'.

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