School pupils took to the mics in the council chamber at today’s meeting (Wednesday 31 January) of the full council to tell councillors exactly what they would like them to do over the next few years to help Manchester earn the child-friendly city title.

Their feedback follows a six-month consultation period which saw over 11,000 children and young people – nearly one in ten of Manchester’s under 18’s – take part in consultation events and surveys, with the results of this work setting the priorities for the city for the coming years.

The city’s bid for UNICEF recognition will now see the council and local partners putting children’s rights into practice over the next three to five years, as they work together towards the shared goal.

As part of this the council, in consultation with children and young people, has had to identify areas of particular focus – known as ‘badges’ – that it must work towards before it can be recognised as a UNICEF Child Friendly City.

The top three badges identified by Manchester’s children and young people for the city to focus on are: Safe and Secure, Place, and Healthy.

In addition to these the city must also focus on a further three core badges – Culture, Co-operation and leadership, and Communication – and has also set itself the extra challenge of including a seventh badge, Equal and Included as a cross-cutting golden thread through all its work in each of the different badge areas.

With over 200 languages spoken in Manchester and as the only city outside London to have residents in each of the 90 listed ethnic groups in the census, city leaders agreed that the Equal and Included priority should as a necessity underpin all of the work undertaken towards becoming a Child-Friendly City.

Virginia Collins Member of Youth Parliament for Manchester said: “We’re asking councillors to act on the badges that have been chosen as they are the issues of young people, chosen by young people.

“Each of the badges have been identified by young people as issues that are real and important to us. We’re therefore asking councillors to act on these badges, to help preserve each of the 42 articles in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and most importantly not to try to second guess us just because we are young.”

The city’s bid for UNICEF Child Friendly City recognition comes off the back of its successful Our Year campaign which took place in the wake of the pandemic, putting children front and centre of city life and opportunities in a bid to make up for everything they had missed out on during repeated Covid lockdowns.

Councillor Garry Bridges, Executive Member for Early Years, Children and Young People, Manchester City Council, said: “After the pandemic we supercharged our ambition for children and young people- with the successful Our Year programme and its legacy and we’re determined to build on this and make the city the very best place it can be for every child and young person to grow up in.

“We can only do this by listening to children themselves. The fact that 11,000 children across the city have taken part in this consultation is incredible and gives us real confidence that we’re getting the message on what matters to them.

“Anyone who has worked with children and young people will know they are often very clear about what they think. As a city our job now is to respond to their demands and make positive changes that involve and benefit them.

“Children have told us they want to be safe and healthy and live in communities that are cared for and have things to do. This shouldn’t be too much to ask for and we all need to make this happen.”

Over the next few years the council will be closely monitored across each of its chosen badge areas by the UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) and an advisory board of local children and young people.