YES Summer Seminar

Hollie Wickens reports back from the Young European Socialists Summer Seminar which was held in Albania in June.  

Now that I’ve had a few weeks to recover and reflect, I wanted to provide a short update for Young Fabian members on this year’s Young European Socialists (YES) Summer Seminar, in gorgeous Albania!

Three years ago, I attended my first YES Summer Camp in Bulgaria and got to know young activists on the left from across Europe. Back in 2019 we were all struggling with the question of electoral decline – our parties just weren’t winning elections. This time however, it was happily a different story. Labour’s sister parties are leading governments across Europe, and that meant the policy discussions we were able to have were more informative than ever.

I spent the seminar as part of the Students and Education Network, discussing education as a tool of equality and the particular issues students face. Finland, Denmark and Sweden are often looked to as the ideal of education, and Finland’s lack of private education means the entire state sector benefits. It was fascinating to hear of some of the issues these countries still face in education, with Sweden having its own strange brand of private schools that sounds similar to academisation here in the UK. 

Migration was also a key topic, and to the UK’s shame we were regularly held up as the example not to follow. Especially now that many of our countries have welcomed young refugees from Ukraine, migrants’ experience of the education system is more important to look at than ever. Some spoke about specific strategies their governments had for the integration of Ukrainians into schools – in the UK we have a page of links. Places like Germany already have experience of this challenge having taken in so many refugees from Syria, and I think we have a lot to learn.

Of course, YES events have an excellent social side – the Germans made sure we got a few games of Flunkyball in and our workshops finished with trips to the beach. Our Albanian hosts did such a great job of welcoming us to their country, and I want to thank them for the huge effort they put in.

This was the first YES event I attended post-Brexit, and I’ll admit that I was concerned I’d be able to have less input as a Brit. However, that wasn’t the case at all. The policy challenges we face are still similar, and there is still so much we can learn from our European colleagues – and them from us. Particularly in an area such as education, where the European Union has little power and most responsibility is national and local government, we have the chance to introduce real change for the better. 

Do keep an eye out on opportunities to attend future YES events. As Young Fabians, we plan on having a presence in these international forums for a long time to come!

Hollie Wickens is the Secretary of the Young Fabians and works for a Labour MP. She tweets at @HollieWickens1.

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