“Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, Out! Out! Out!” Oh those where the days. Tories in, miners out. And raising placards high. Fast forward too many years and the chants are changing and the ages lowering. Seems the kids are revolting. And so am I. Back in education twenty years on, I’m finding myself on the front line as cuts loom and prospects look bleak.
I’ve just missed the fee increases (if I change any post degree studious plans) but that’s not whats getting my goat. Gove is. Michael Gove, Education secretary and my favourite dartboard. I appreciate we need to deal with the price we put on university education but talk of social mobility and improving the numbers of free school dinner students getting into Oxford and Cambridge ring hollow with this dinner ticket kid. (Yes cheers for years of square, cold scrambled eggs!) How can we get young adults from poorer backgrounds engaged with education if you abandon the only financial support they get? £30 Educational Maintenance Allowance pays for essential bus fares, books and food. Over 70% of the people on my Access Course last year were only surviving thanx to EMA and I can’t see how removing this educational support is gonna get young heads into books. You may as well cut the libraries. (Oh yeah I forgot that’s happening to). The reason most students go to further or higher education isn’t the beer and day time TV. The workload is bigger than I ever expected and with a First the only way to single yourself out in the job market, the study must be had. Education is there to improve prospects, both for the student and society.
This attack on the right to free education and the chance for those in lower income families or living independently won’t wash. Hence the protests. It may look odd seeing school uniforms out numbering police ones, but I’m backing the kids. No matter the inconvenience they cause commuters! They are facing a future of elite education (don’t tell me skint parents will place education over wages), massive debt, a mortgage ladder they can’t get a foot on and a fruitless graduate job hunt. Plaster them all over the front page and call them yobs if you must, but we’re not all buying it. I didn’t forgive Thatcher’s defeat of the miners and I won’t forgive this. Too right the kids are pissed off. Lies to Lib Dem voting students and the cutting of further education essentials like EMA and Aim Higher have made them engage with the political process as the ConDems try to disengage them from education.
Rant over? Almost. Like most students I’m getting angry. With each of Gove’s new ideas comes more grr! Forward thinking abandoned in favour of a big society that I reckon is on course to produce a generation of angry kids. From hug a hoodie to charge a protester in less than two years. Good work Dave, congrats Nick, at least you’ve delivered on one pre-election promise. You’ve engaged the young electorate, the apathetic youth. Their fingers are off game console buttons but their feet are marching the streets. Yes the kids are revolting and I’m so glad someone is.
Schoolgirls join hands to peacefully stop attacks on a police van during student protests in London. Photograph: Demotix/Peter Marshall