Young People Reclaiming Their Voice

In My View… by Alfie Hillson, Youth Co-ordinator, South East Cornwall Labour Party

alfieWhen I was given the opportunity to write this column, I was concerned I might struggle to squeeze in all the pressing concerns young people have about their future. Most young people were almost voiceless for a long while, denied any decision making. However, many are now reclaiming their voice, understanding how politics affects them, and looking for ways in which they can effect change.

We now see record numbers of younger people voting Labour and actively engaged with politics. It hasn’t been easy for this generation; we’ve seen tuition fees rise to extortionate levels, the abolition of EMA, lower wages, zero hour contracts. For many, there is no hope, little opportunity, and a barrier separating them from success. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

So, I decided to write about the most pressing issue affecting younger people: the amount spent on education. We all believe each child should get the best start in life, and I was fortunate to grow up in an era of decent school funding. The Blair government had the sense and audacity to realise a fully-funded education system not only gives children the best start but also builds a stronger economy. We need to reevaluate the relationship we have with our schools. Many schools in Cornwall, as elsewhere, changed to academies. But should schools be expected to make profits, like businesses? Or, like me, do you share a vision of fairer funding that gives every child an equal chance in life?

We have no control over whether we are born into wealth or not, but let’s make sure we fund our children’s future, regardless of their circumstances. This country has the money – don’t let people fool us into thinking we can’t fund schools properly. It’s all about choosing how our money is spent. We are told austerity-led cost-cutting is for the greater good, but in reality we have seen the national deficit rise massively under the Conservatives.

The outlook is bleak for our schools. Many teachers in South East Cornwall have their own stories of how local schools are struggling. These are the facts: £2.8 billion has been cut from school budgets since 2015 – the biggest real term fall in school funding per pupil in 30 years. And the outlook for spending on Further Education is set to fall by 13% between 2019-20. Evidence suggests expenditure levels have a direct impact on pupil performance. So how much longer will we allow this to happen? Who does austerity actually benefit? It certainly doesn’t seem to be helping our young people get a good start in life.

South East Cornwall Labour Party is doing its best to publicise this issue, and earlier this month we held a campaign day in the centre of Liskeard, highlighting the key issues and cuts affecting our local schools. It’s all part of creating a fairer society for everyone. For more information contact: chair@laboursecornwall.org.uk

First published in The Cornish Times, 15/06/2018

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