Sunday, 1 May 2011

The Effects of Political Decisions on Young People's Future ...

A 15-year-old boy was given a standing ovation at a teachers' conference after his speech on the axing of the education maintenance allowance (EMA).

Joe Cotton urged the National Union of Teachers to do all they could to keep education "affordable and accessible".

The GCSE student, from Calder High School, Yorkshire, said scrapping the EMA did not make economic sense.

The government is replacing the scheme to keep poorer pupils in education with what it says is a more targeted grant.

Joe, from Hebden Bridge, told the 1,100-strong NUT conference in Harrogate: "Like many other people, recent events have made me really aware of the effects that political decisions can have on my life.

"At the moment, education as we know it is under threat.

"Despite pledges and promises, tuition fees are trebling and vital schemes like SureStart and the educational maintenance allowance are being axed.

"Today, I'd like to stress how important it is that the EMA at least is protected."

He added: "In the words of Nadine, one of the 650,000 college students who currently receive it; 'EMA means I can go to college. Without it I just couldn't manage'."

He claimed that the EMA replacement announced last month was receiving £400m less funding and added: "Well I don't know how nifty Michael Gove thinks he can be with a loaf and some fishes, or even a bus pass and some text books, but he's going to need nothing short of a miracle to replicate the benefits of the EMA with that budget."

To applause from the floor, the teenager added: "I believe that if even one student is unable to continue education based on their family's income and not their ability, then the government has failed in its responsibility to uphold basic rights to education."

After he finished speaking, NUT general secretary Christine Blower took to the stage to congratulate him saying: "Now that's what comprehensive education can do."

And he was given a standing ovation by the delegates.

Joe predicted that many young people would be politicised by the cuts and changes to the education system.

He said politicians had their "heads in the clouds" if they thought scrapping the EMA and trebling university fees would not deter young people from staying on in education.

"It's a shame that Joe and many hundreds of thousands of young people like him will now find getting an education in this country is something that is harder than it was before," he said.

At the same time, a recent survey suggested over half of those currently at university would not have started their course if tuition fees were set a £9000. 

All these point to a worrying future - a combination of an indebted youth and a disenchanted, less educated and a jobless youth ... and the Government's plan - make them work for their benefits! i.e. send them to the 'workhouse' ... where they do a maximum working week, for less than the minimum wage! 

Well how did that happen? ... and how was that legal? Apathy will result in this kind of thing becoming a reality ... unless more people 'smell the coffee' and take it upon themselves to do something about it!

The NUT General Secretary Christine Blower referred to Joe Cotton's speech and told delegates it was vital they continue to protest against the government's planned education spending cuts. Speaking on the final day of the NUT conference, Ms Blower said, "the attacks we face ... go to the heart of the education service" and that resistance to the cuts is a "duty".

Looks like Michael Gove, Education Minister, might have to start listening a little more too ...