• Yomi Ajilore

Fighting for a Fair Chance



I spend a number of my days working with young people and fighting for them to have a better experience than I did growing up. To me this means, better opportunities, better access and more support. Since March 2020, we have all been living in a world that looks very different to what we are used to. Some have had to work from home, students have had to learn from home, vulnerable people have had to shield from their loved ones and overall there has been a great deal of uncertainty about the future. In addition to this, there have been many reports highlighting the disproportionate way in which the Coronavirus has affected BAME communities the most.

The lockdown has eased and people are now able to go out and visit family and friends (while adhering to the government's social distancing rules). It saddens me to learn that the government is now scrapping free travel for under 18s, which means for those who relied on it to get to school or visit friends and family, attend programmes or receive social support, they will be unable to. This can lead to young people being stuck in their homes, feeling lonely and experiencing issues with their mental health. There is another group of people that will be negatively affected by this, and these are parents, who may already be affected financially as a result of the Coronavirus. They will now have an extra layer of stress as they try to find money to pay for their children's transport. This could increase poverty and cause people from poorer backgrounds to fall into debt and struggle to find ways to send their children to school.


I grew up with five siblings; free transport meant that my parents who both worked tirelessly to put food on the table, had one less thing to worry about, it meant that I could get to school and around London. Without that, I don’t know how I would have been able to see friends, travel to some of the programmes I attended, play basketball against other schools or be a part of the young advisors providing support to other young people in my community.

Young people have had an incredibly difficult time, from not being able to go to school physically and socialise with other young people, to the mental health issues that come with that, as well as not knowing what their prospects are for the future due to not being able to sit exams. Some of the young people we work with haven’t been accepted into the university they wanted to and are therefore unsure of what to do this year. Others are worried about the transition from lockdown to going to university. Some of them want to defer their university places in hopes that circumstances will have improved in a year and they will have the opportunity to experience university life normally.

If that wasn’t enough, there have been many news articles this week stating that nearly 40% of A-level/GCSE result predictions are to be downgraded in England, so not only were young people unable to take their tests, they were given predicted grades by their teachers and now Ofqual, using it’s statistical model will downgrade around 40% of these results based on students historical performance, which we know will affect people from underserved communities the most. To put it into context, this means that nearly 300,000 A-levels issued will be lower than the teacher assessment and nearly 2m for GCSEs. The young people that are most at risk of being affected are thought to be students on the border between B and C grades, and between C and D grades. If you’re a young person today, it’s hard to see how the government is fighting for you.

Earlier this week, Scotland announced the reversal of their plan to downgrade exam results after public outcry, however the Government in England have not followed suit. Instead, the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced a last minute and uninformed decision to give schools the opportunity to appeal if A-level or GCSE results are lower than mock exam results. Not only is this an approach that creates more confusion, but it affects the whole process, from schools, to UCAS, universities, students and parents. Once again, it displays the Government's lack of diversity and diverse thinking. Such decisions should be made with the inclusion of all parties that will be impacted, but instead the Government makes a last minute decision that shows their inability to relate with the people they are supposed to serve. Today, young people have received their A level results and many of them have left their school crying because their results have been downgraded below their predictions.

All young people want is to be treated fairly and to have a fair chance at achieving their dreams. If you are like me and you want the best future for young people, then please share this post everywhere you possibly can, and sign the petitions below. Thank you.

Petitions currently running to stop TfL removing free travel for under 18s, please sign.

Petition (164,681 signatures at the time of writing)

Change.org (89,000+ signatures at the time of writing)

Sources:

Mayor of London

Evening Standard

Metro

BBC

Petitions to Stop the 33% downgrade of 2020 A level and GCSE results, please sign.

Change.org (186,913 signatures at time of writing)

Petition (164,279 signatures at time of writing)

Sources:

The Guardian - Scotland reverses downgrading

BBC - Scotland, downgraded results reversed

The Guardian

Metro

Daily Mail

BBC

Financial Times

BBC - Students warn mock grades 'make mockery' of exams


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