The annual children's champion elections have been held in all primary schools across the borough – with pupils choosing from a record-breaking 99 candidates this year.
The current children's council worked hard to whittle the wonderful entries down to the top 37 before assessment sessions were held to select 8 finalists.
The election results were declared at a coronavirus (COVID-19)-secure event at Moss Street Youth Centre with the awards given out by the Mayor of Rochdale, Councillor Aasim Rashid.
School children from across the borough elected 10-year-old Grace Butterworth from Whittaker Moss Primary School in Norden as their new children's champion for 2021/21. Grace secured 1,752 votes from a total of 7,651 cast in this year's elections. The new champion stood on 3 manifesto points – using therapy pets and working with the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) to support children; working with health experts like the Red Cross to teach children and young people first aid from a young age; and more nature camps for outdoor learning.
'I'm really looking forward to working in this role with all the other children's council representatives'
Speaking about her win Grace said: "I can't believe it but I will work really hard. Thank you to everyone who voted. I'm really looking forward to working in this role with all the other children's council representatives."
Hashim Hussain, 10, from Belfield Community Primary School, was elected deputy children's champion. He spoke passionately about his manifesto points and how he's taken inspiration from Captain Sir Tom Moore and Marcus Rashford by raising over £7,000 for local food charities. Working alongside Grace, he wants to work on making sure we listen to everyone to make Rochdale a better place. Caring for his poorly sister is inspiring him to make sure children with ongoing needs have a good health care plan and all services are linked up and working together. And finally, he wants to make sure that every child has a computer at home so that we give every child the chance to succeed.
Just pipped to the post were the 6 other finalists: Amelia Hanif-Ahmed, aged 10, from Shawclough Community Primary School; Annie Lazzarova, aged 10, from Castleton Primary School; Eliza Ogden, aged 10, from St Mary's RC Primary School in Littleborough; Esme Shepherd, aged 10, from Marland Hill Community Primary School; Harris Khaliq, aged 10, from Broadfield Primary School, and Lacey Mapuranga, aged 10, from Hollin Primary School.
All candidates, and the other 91 who entered, are all invited to be part of the wider children's council to help Grace and Hashim with their plans.
'These young people are our future doctors, teachers, decision makers and it's so clear that our future is in good hands'
Councillor Rachel Massey, cabinet member for children's services and education, said: "All the candidates were so inspiring. Their passion and care came across loud and clear. I'm really looking forward to not only seeing them all work together in the youth council but to working with Grace and Hashim so that we can help them bring their manifesto points in action. These young people are our future doctors, teachers, decision makers and it's so clear that our future is in good hands."
The outgoing children' champion, 12-year-old Erin Buckley, who was from St Mary's RC Primary School in Litteborough when elected, held the role for 2 years due to the pandemic. In a really challenging year she still achieved a lot of her manifesto points.
Children's champions, along with the wider children's council, work with decision makers to make changes that will improve the lives of young people across the borough and give local young people a chance to fulfil their ambitious ideas.