Big Ballot 2007
The Ombudsman for Children’s biggest piece of work so far, and the largest ever consultation of children and young people in Ireland called the Big Ballot was a huge success thanks to the hard work and dedication of teachers and schools.
In Spring 2007, the OCO invited all schools, Youthreach centres and Senior Traveller Training Centres, to get involved in this unique event. The response was overwhelming. We heard the views of almost 75,000 children and young people from 500 schools and education centres in the end. Primary schools represented a very significant proportion of those participating.
The Ballot gave children and young people up to 18 years the opportunity to vote on a number of issues in a referendum-style event in early November 2007. The five issues were: Education; Having a Voice; Play and Recreation; Family and Care; and Health, Wealth and Material Well-being.
To support the roll-out of the Big Ballot in schools, the OCO produced five sets of age-appropriate, teacher and pupil/student-friendly resource materials with the assistance of two experienced teams of writers, and a lot of support and advice from wider groups of education stakeholders. The feedback from schools on these materials was very positive.
In October, Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan and her team embarked on a nationwide tour to hear how participating schools were getting on with the Big Ballot and to listen to what children and young people had to say on the issues. Emily visited more than 30 schools and centres in locations all over Ireland. She meet with approximately 5,000 children and young people and dozens of teachers and principals. The tour received fantastic support from both principals and teachers alike. We received a warm welcome in all the schools which had gone to a lot of trouble to prepare not just for the visit, but also the actual polling day itself.
The national results were announced on 20th November, Universal Children’s Day, at a special Count Event in City Hall, Dublin. Many of the schools Emily visited attended the count event to represent their county. It was a brilliant day which was enjoyed by all present.
Following the November 20th event, the results were communicated back to schools. Nationally, the issue which children and young people identified as being of most concern was Family and Care, followed by Play and Recreation. The OCO has committed to working on all of these issues over the coming years.
In the subsequent months, we were delighted to receive a large volume of feedback from the various schools which took part – some of it solicited by us, more given independently. The overwhelming response was very positive with the teachers and young people who contacted us telling us how much they enjoyed taking part in the Ballot.
The OCO is enormously grateful to all of the support we received at national level from a wide range of education stakeholders and locally from schools and all their staff who worked hard to ensure that the voices of their pupils and students were heard, and who made the Big Ballot such a success.