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New year hopes from south Warwickshire's younger generation

Oliver Banks,

Stratford Primary School

Something I would like to see in the upcoming year is for food waste to be dealt with.

Now that we have a small recycle bin specifically for food waste, I have seen how much we as a family of five produce weekly, even when we try not to waste large amounts.

One of the reasons people throw away food is confusing food labels, such as best before dates, sell-by dates and open life dates on food in shops and supermarkets.

Oliver Banks.
Oliver Banks.

A best before date indicates the quality of a food product, it has nothing to do with whether the food is safe to eat or not, it just tells you it may not look or taste as good.

A sell-by date tells the store how long to display the product for so they can better control stock while the product is on the shelf. This is only for the retailer’s benefit meaning it’s just contributing to the confusion that these labels make.

An open life label is another label which tells you ‘Once opened consume within x days’. This can look like a pretty serious warning, but it is only designed to refer to the quality of the food. Food is safe to be eaten past this date, for example brown bananas, some people think bananas are inedible once brown, but brown bananas are often preferred when making a banana loaf.

To conclude, if food could be better labelled in supermarkets, families would waste less and stop throwing away perfectly fine food. They could use the money saved to help pay for other necessities like heating and electricity.

So instead of throwing away food, always use your intuition to check it first.

Phoebe Ross,

Stratford-upon-Avon School

For 2023 I want to see the protection of women in the area taken seriously.

Having asked many female students at my school, it is apparent they feel unsafe to walk home alone through town at night. I feel as though some of this feeling would be taken away if, as a town, we were to push the time when the streetlights go off back. The curfew placed on the streetlights makes walking home from a night out dangerous.

Furthermore, I would like to see the intervention of schools where students are educated to make women feel safer. In order for girls to feel safer, we must stop putting the responsibility on girls to protect ourselves and start educating how to respect women. Teaching about the past oppression of women, ways we are still made to feel inferior and how respect should be shown to women would help shape the minds of the future and remove the unease, felt by many women.

After years of feminist movements to get rid of our oppression, lately I cannot help but feel we are only going backwards.

Archie Flynn,

Stratford-upon-Avon School

2022 has been a year of division, within our own country and globally, and it’s undoubtedly true that since the pandemic, life has not simply ‘gone back to normal’ like we all hoped it would. Instead, it seems a new ‘normal’ has been created, and this new normal, for the vast majority of us, consists of increasing anxiety and uncertainty surrounding many of the things that matter to us most.

As a 17-year-old student, it’s not exactly a burden of mine to find the funds to heat my home, arrange an escape from war, or find where my next meal will be coming from, but for many people, this is their day-to-day reality. I believe that the most core feature of what it means to be human is empathy, and throughout this past year, it’s sad to see that fundamental value be worn away by those who should exemplify it most. I witnessed this through someone very close to me who, as part of a charity scheme, visited two migrant camps in Calais this year. They showed me in detail the conditions these people live in, how they freeze and starve in fields on the slim hope they can escape into the security we have the privilege of living in – only to be told they are not worthy of it. As such, my one wish for 2023 would be an end to this atmosphere of division, and the establishment of another ‘new normal’, one of empathy, community and togetherness.

Kerry Alcock,

Stratford Youth Town Council

It’s been a strange year for the youth council. It seems we have had to deal with things we never expected. The death of The Queen, understanding the war in Ukraine and the impact that has had on people our age.

Seeing people from Ukraine travelling, sometimes alone, to a country they don’t know to stay with people they have never met has made us all grateful that we don’t have to live like that.

Kerry Alcock. (61479245)
Kerry Alcock. (61479245)

The cost-of-living crisis means we might not have to look at ways to pay ever-rising costs ourselves, but we can see the affect and worry it has had on our families.

Some of the youth council members will be looking this year to being able to vote for the first time, finally being able to have a say on what we want for our town.

And no, we still have no interest in a bowling alley!

All these issues this year have made us appreciate all the little things in life, playing in snow with younger siblings knowing we can go home and get warm again is one of them, not everyone our age has that luxury.

As always we are grateful to have a youth council where we can have a chance to raise the issues that effect us.

Sammy Erskine,

Captain of School,

King Edward VI School

I am hoping for many things in 2023: personal success, economic stability and a solution to migrant crisis, figure highly.

Selfishly I’d also like Tesco to renew their chicken and bacon sandwich.

As a student of history with a specific interest in Russia, however, it is hard for my hopes for 2023 to stray far from world affairs. Every facet of our individual lives is affected by the war in Eastern Europe. An energy crisis, a humanitarian crisis and a diplomatic crisis have ruptured our domestic affairs from the outside. We cannot possibly ignore the tragedy on our doorstep, especially when perhaps it was so predictable. Stubbornness to reach an appropriate treaty in this matter will cause thousands more deaths.

Sammy Erskine. (61479343)
Sammy Erskine. (61479343)

This is Putin’s war, not Russia’s, but in resolving this situation which has resulted in untold misery for the people of the Ukraine, I personally hope that the West will also be conscious of the deep insecurities ingrained in Russian culture in this matter. Russia’s geographic vulnerability has made the country see itself as a victim throughout history; from Napoleon to Hitler, Russia has regularly been attacked, and now views the actions of the US and NATO through traumatised eyes.

A cornered Russia is a danger to everybody, and it is up to the West to address their insecurities.

To find a solution to the conflict, and its devastating effects, a compromise must be agreed which allows Putin to save face.

The situation may also be helped by the UK and others acting independently and stepping outside the policy line of the US, whose actions since 2014 could be viewed as exacerbating friction in the region.

I believe a little realpolitik is required.

Happy New Year.

Emily Hunt

Kineton High School

In the year ahead I would like more action to be taken to combat the current biodiversity crisis we are experiencing in the UK.

One change which I believe would have a significant impact on this is more effort being channelled into increasing youth engagement with nature.

Emily Hunt. (61479405)
Emily Hunt. (61479405)

Youth engagement is vital – we need to create a generation of young people who feel connected to nature and therefore have a passion to protect it. Nature is also proven to have many positive effects on mental health – so youth engagement is not only beneficial to the planet but also to the individual.

My generation could be described as being disconnected from the natural world, particularly at secondary schools where we may have no real access to natural spaces and no nature-based extra-curricular activities. Barriers to engaging with nature span further than exposure while in school, however. For example, financial barriers such as paying memberships to organisations or entry to reserves also come into play.

Some young people may feel unsafe out on their own and so rely on parental input to get outside – parents/carers being willing and able to participate in their child’s interest also has an impact.

I would like to see a more serious attitude towards youth engagement with nature and more action taken by organisations, schools and communities to try to provide something for young people who are interested in nature, normalising it as something to care about and spreading awareness of the current crises.

Grace Abra

Kineton High School

As 2022 draws to an end, people start to think what they might want from the upcoming year, what their new year’s resolution could be: to be a better person or to promise to eat more vegetables, but the new year’s resolution of young people is to have a mental health centre in the village so that young people can go and talk about how they’re feeling, anonymously and securely.

A mental health centre for young children would be beneficial for everyone involved, even adults can go along if they’re feeling down or alone. It is free and anyone can go along if they would prefer to get help from someone that won’t judge. Shouldn’t everyone have the chance to get help without feeling judged?

The centre would be funded by the government and why shouldn’t it be? This should be something that is mandatory in schools and villages, but it isn’t, and because of this young people are suffering daily, and nobody can spot it. We need to do better. Young children need to know that there is someone to listen without judgement. This is why a mental health centre would be so helpful for young children who feel alone and isolated.

In terms of mental health in young children it can really affect them, and without treatment it can take a dire turn for the worst. Children can act up when they’re feeling down and this can be their silent way of asking for help.

Grades. Grades. Grades. Is all a child hears throughout their teenage life, this can cause feelings of stress and upset to occur if they aren’t meeting the grades, believing their only worth is a number on a sheet. Why are we letting the people of tomorrow go through this immense pressure and anxiety, without support? With feelings of self-worth declining, attendance can become low, and when they are in school their concentration levels may be low due to the hopeless feeling that they are stuck in. The pressure from the education system is causing the decline in children’s mental health. They need support, and we are failing them.

If a centre was put in then children could feel supported and happier so then their new year’s resolution to be happier could be fulfilled – don’t we only want our children to feel happier? Also, their anxiety and stress could decrease as they are getting the help that they need, they also wouldn’t have to feel worried that their family would find out, as it’s all confidential.

It would be very beneficial for young people whose brains are still developing. Asking for help at this age can seem like the scariest thing, but with this centre they can feel safe and get the help they need.

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