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Over 1000 schools & education centres to take part in the OCO’s Big Ballot

More than 1,030 primary and post-primary schools, Youthreach centres and Senior Traveller Training Centres from all over the country will take part in Ireland’s first ever nationwide poll of children young people, which will help shape the work of the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO).

This means that at least 200,000 children and young people will have a say in the issues that the Children’s Ombudsman, Emily Logan, and her team will focus on over the next few years. Earlier this year the Ombudsman for Children’s Office invited all schools, Youthreach centres and Senior Traveller Training Centres to get involved in this unique event. FÁS and homeschooled young people are also encouraged to participate.

The poll, called the Big Ballot, will give children and young people from 4 years to 18 years the opportunity to vote on a number of issues in a referendum-style event in early November. The OCO will commit to working on those issues prioritised by the children and young people over the coming years. Academic research carried out by Dr Ursula Kilkelly of UCC identified a number of issues which affect children and young people living in Ireland today, and these were shortlisted down to five by 150 young people.

The five issues are: Education; Having a Voice; Play and Recreation; Family and Care; and Health, Wealth and Material Well-being. The OCO has worked with many education stakeholders and two teams of teachers with experience of developing resource materials to create five sets of age-appropriate, teacher and pupil/student-friendly resource materials. Four sets of materials and an accompanying DVD have been created for primary schools which will help teachers to develop the children’s understanding of the issues in advance of the vote. At post-primary level the materials are aimed at 2nd or 3rd year CSPE students, and can be used as the Action Project for the Junior Certificate. The OCO hopes that 5th and 6th class primary pupils and CSPE students will take charge of rolling out the Big Ballot in their individual schools.

Children’s Ombudsman, Emily Logan, will visit 30 venues in October to meet the children and young people running the project and hear about their experiences to date. The national results will be announced on 20th November, Universal Children’s Day, at a special Count Event in City Hall, Dublin.