Croydon’s first Takeover Challenge – which saw 68 young people take over some of the town’s top jobs – has been deemed a huge success, both by young people and local leaders.
For one day, on Friday, the young participants became key decision makers at the town hall, Croydon police and several other leading local public and private-sector organisations.
Early feedback from young people has shown that 94 per cent of respondents felt their voices were heard and that they had gained confidence from the experience, while 96 per cent felt they had had the chance to make positive change in Croydon. Meanwhile 100 per cent would recommend other young people participate in the Takeover Challenge.
Angel Chizea, 14, hit the ground running when she took over Jo Negrini’s role as chief executive of Croydon Council for the day. Her first task was a live radio interview with BBC Radio London, who were keen to hear about the takeover in the borough with the capital’s largest youth population.
Angel, who hopes to be a leader in local government when she is older, said: “It was great meeting Jo – I got to see around Croydon, she showed me what she does and I talked to all the councillors.”
Jo was equally enthusiastic about her experience and told the young people after the event: “I got a lot out of this as a chief executive – Angel has been great and really challenging which is just what I hoped for.”
Riddlesdown pupil Charlotte Earl, 16, and Virgo Fidelis pupil Jennifer Rodriques, 13, stepped into the shoes of one of Croydon’s most senior local politicians. Together they jointly took over Coucillor Alison Butler’s role as deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for homes, regeneration and planning.
Charlotte said: “The most important thing I learnt is how complex and difficult planning is. It’s not just a case of putting a stamp of approved or declined on a bit of paper – there are all sorts of laws and regulations you have to take into account.”
Meanwhile Chardonnay Henry, 14, put Detective Superintendent Jane Corrigan of Croydon police in the hot seat, quizzing her about knife crime when she took on the role of the council’s director of strategy and partnerships. In turn Jane had questions for Chardonnay about new ways to reach out to Croydon’s young people with important safety messages.
Also at Croydon police, six young people rose to the challenge when they took part in a simulated exercise to find a missing person.
Other organisations that took part included the TMRW hub, CDI (Croydon Drop-In), Croydon Clinical Commissioning Group, Palace for Life, and Croydon Safeguarding Children’s Board.
Croydon was taking part for the first time in the national Takeover Challenge, which is now in its 10th year. Croydon Council also recently launched its own Choose your Future campaign, which encourages young people to make positive life choices and calls upon the community to suppport them in doing so.
“Croydon’s first Takeover Challenge has been really special for me. It’s great to walk into the council chamber and see it filled with young people from all over the borough, wanting to learn how things work and how decisions are made, and to see their enthusiasm and determination to make a difference in their local community.
“I’ve learnt so much from listening to the young people around me today and their insight has been incredibly useful. I hope the experience has been as inspirational for them as it has been for all the adults who took part and that it encourages them to keep on making positive choices and choose their futures.”
Councillor Alisa Flemming, cabinet member for children, young people and learning