Youngsters become councillors for the day in Portsmouth’s first Children’s Parliament at the Guildhall

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PRIMARY school children had the opportunity to put their views to the council as part of the city’s first ever Children’s Parliament.

As reported by The News, children from Solent Infant and Junior schools and Court Lane Infant School had taken part in their own election to select representatives to attend the Children’s Parliament.

Children's group Dream Catchers hold their very own children's parliament at the Guildhall, Portsmouth. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

Children's group Dream Catchers hold their very own children's parliament at the Guildhall, Portsmouth. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

The event was the culmination of months of hard work by Dream Catchers, an after-school children’s support initiative.

Co-founder of Dream Catchers, Caroline Brennan, said: ‘It is brilliant that the children will get a platform to raise their concerns and the council have assured us that they will listen to what is said and take it seriously.’

After a tour of the Guildhall, the children joined councillors and the Lord Mayor, Lee Mason, in the Council Chamber to put forward their manifestos of how to improve the city.

Felicity Brown, 11, said: ‘I have really enjoyed getting shown around by the Mayor and was really surprised by how much his chain is worth.’

Children's group Dream Catchers hold their very own children's parliament at the Guildhall, Portsmouth. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

Children's group Dream Catchers hold their very own children's parliament at the Guildhall, Portsmouth. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

Cllr Mason said: ‘It is important that children have a voice and get involved with important issues. One of the key aims is to get children engaged and develop their understanding of how democracy works and the council is run.’

During the discussions the children raised a number of important issues such as people living homeless, improved public toilet facilities for children, bullying and safer road crossings.

One area of concern focused on the provision of disabled facilities, particularly in terms of beach access and play park rides.

Jessica Lines, 10, said: ‘We have a disabled person in Dream Catchers and also in my school. Since this I have become much more aware of a lack rides for children in the city’s play parks. My favourite part of the day was getting to sit in the Council Chamber and put questions to the Lord Mayor.’

Children's group Dream Catchers hold their very own children's parliament at the Guildhall, Portsmouth. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

Children's group Dream Catchers hold their very own children's parliament at the Guildhall, Portsmouth. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

Harry McArthur, 11, raised the issue of dog waste in the city’s parks and suggested increased fines and the provision of more dog waste bins.

‘I think there is a growing problem with dog waste and hopefully having spoken to the council they will look to do something about it,’ he explained. 

After the day’s success, Caroline now hopes roll-out the programme across the city to provide a platform for more children to have their say.

‘Today is just the start of what is a very exciting development to hopefully allow children from across the city to have a much greater input into how their city is run,’ she explained. 

Children's group Dream Catchers with the lord mayor of Portsmouth, councillor Lee Mason, as they hold their very own children's parliament at Portsmouth Guildhall. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

Children's group Dream Catchers with the lord mayor of Portsmouth, councillor Lee Mason, as they hold their very own children's parliament at Portsmouth Guildhall. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

Children's group, Dream Catchers hold their very own children's parliament at the Guildhall, Portsmouth. Cllr Lee Mason, lord mayor of Portsmouth shows them a seal and scroll dating from 1901, giving the freedom of the city to alderman Sir William Pink. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

Children's group, Dream Catchers hold their very own children's parliament at the Guildhall, Portsmouth. Cllr Lee Mason, lord mayor of Portsmouth shows them a seal and scroll dating from 1901, giving the freedom of the city to alderman Sir William Pink. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

Children's group Dream Catchers hold their very own children's parliament at the Guildhall, Portsmouth. Cllr Lee Mason, lord mayor of Portsmouth, shows them some historic ceremonial silverware. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

Children's group Dream Catchers hold their very own children's parliament at the Guildhall, Portsmouth. Cllr Lee Mason, lord mayor of Portsmouth, shows them some historic ceremonial silverware. Picture: Duncan Shepherd