Last year saw the coalition government embark on a series of cuts directly affecting young people, the most controversial perhaps, being the scrapping of EMA. One year on we see that the promise by the educational secretary Michael Gove of a “more targeted” scheme broken, as many students from underprivileged backgrounds are being left without support or information.
Unfortunately, current practice within Harrow’s collegiate of sixth forms is allowing many students from low income backgrounds to slip through the safety net. Thus, their ability to finance higher education is becoming increasingly difficult. The government’s devolution of powers from central organisations to schools has led to an inefficient criteria and a practice which is unsustainable.
At present, the point which determines whether you receive the financial aid, is based upon whether or not you receive ‘Free School Meals’. However, from my own investigations and personal experiences of the process, I have found that the allocation of ‘Free School Meals’ itself excludes those who receive Working Tax Credits, regardless of whether your annual income is still under £16,190. Therefore, students from low income backgrounds – whose parents work – are being severely penalized. Furthermore, the lack of any appeals system leads to students being left in an impossible situation where they find themselves without help, advice or information. Instances have been found where students who have lodged formal appeals waiting months to receive any solid information.
Although this article only concerns the practice of the fund within Harrow’s schools, it is clear that devolving power to schools is a bad idea, thus it is not hard to imagine that this is taking place all over the country. As a representative of the youth of Harrow, it is my duty to explore and bring this injustice to light. It is clear that the system in its current state is failing many students who wish to gain an education yet face the barriers of financial burden. Is it fair that a coalition of over-privileged individuals decide the fate of poor students? And furthermore that we are witnessing young people forced to sell beloved possessions in order to fund an education?
This country is facing a huge problem with regards to social mobility, so is it just to cut schemes that aid such a task. Are politicians merely giving us lip service or do they really desire a fairer society in which we can truly claim to have meritocracy.
By Ladan Dirie
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