It's not easy being young

It’s not easy being a young person at the moment. The government has just announced that under-25 year olds will no longer qualify for housing benefit despite rents climbing to record levels; there seem to be fewer secure, well paid jobs for young people, and employers are still telling me that they are seeing school-leavers not properly equipped to enter the world of work.

Indeed my own experience in this area hasn’t always been positive: in my last job I ran an apprenticeship programme for school leavers. There were some great candidates but only half the applicants actually turned up for the interview.

So I can understand that whether you are a young person, an employer or even a parent, things can sometimes feel pretty pessimistic.

Which is why my recent visits to Chester schools have been so positive.

At Cherry Grove Primary in Boughton and Oldfield Primary in Upton, the children have joined the “Take My Friend to School” project. It’s about the plight of children (and especially girls) in developing nations who are denied an education, often forced into work, or who live in conditions where education is a luxury. Our children’s understanding of these issues and the solutions they proposed were imaginative and moving: these are primary school children but their knowledge of the world’s problems is immense.

Meanwhile at Blacon High School a team of students went to Sens in France to join in the Schools Olympics. When I met them they were showing off their newly acquired archery skills. In France they mixed with youngsters from other countries, practised speaking French and took part in tough competitive sports.

I think they drew the line at eating frogs’ legs, though. They were confident and articulate and proud of representing our city.

Finally, I attended the Gala Performance at the Hammond School. The Hammond is one of the UK’s leading performing arts schools and it is right here in Chester. The show took place in the school’s theatre but in truth I could easily have been in a West End theatre – the show was stunning. It blew my socks off.

More impressive still was that much of the production and choreography was led by the students themselves. The audience included some of Chester’s leading performers such as Matt Baker and David Edwards. University Vice Chancellor Tim Wheeler was there to recognise the contribution to the new performing arts degree he is introducing with the Hammond.

And everyone was blown away by the energy and creativity and pure ability of the performers.

So next time you hear folks complaining about young people, remember there is talent in abundance out there. The future of our city is in good hands.

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