STUDENTS at Cyfarthfa High School are making sure their voices will be heard in the upcoming Welsh Parliament elections after gaining the right to vote. 

For the first time teenagers in Wales aged 16 and 17 will vote in the May elections but research shows that many youngsters have a limited understanding of Welsh politics. 

Year 11 students at the Merthyr Tydfil secondary school are ahead of the game by running a series of specialist tutorials and online resources to raise awareness of this significant change in voting rights. 

Headteacher Rod Francis said: “This is a real step forward for young people across Wales as they will have a say over critical issues that affect their future, such as health, education and the economy. 

“We want to make our students are aware that their voice matters in Welsh politics which is why we’ve highlighted the issue through focused workshops, online and classroom resources.” 

Following a campaign by ERS Cymru and a coalition of youth and civil society campaigners, the Senedd and Election Act was passed in 2020, granting 16- and 17-year olds the right to vote in the Senedd Elections.  

Since then the Welsh Government has launched the Vote 16 to combat the problem of young people not taking enough of an interest in politics to have an informed vote. 

Recently 18 and 19 year olds had the lowest turn-out in the 2019 general election.  

At Cyfarthfa High School students are learning how the Senedd works and its everyday impact on Welsh life from making laws to setting taxes to help them make an informed decision. 

They are also raising awareness of the importance of voting and how they can have a positive impact on their community by making their mark on Election Day. 

Deputy Head Boy Cory Shemwell, who has led on tutorials and debates explained, This an incredibly interesting time, as the role of the Welsh Parliament has come under the spotlight over the last 12 months.  “Not many of us can honestly say we knew what powers Mark Drakeford had before the pandemic. Now, almost everyone in Wales knows how he can make decisions that are different from the UK Prime Minister.
“Young people are massively impacted by these decisions and should have some degree of say in the way they are made.
They are afforded other responsibilities such as marriage, working, age of consent, and we want more young people to recognise that the right to vote is extremely important.”