A few months ago, during a conversation with one of my friends, the subject of university came up. We both had a similar state secondary school education, although admittedly a few years apart, they had gone onto university, but I hadn’t.
This led to some discussion as to why?
Going to university when I left school, wasn’t all that common if you came from a working-class background.
Out of my immediate circle of around 7 close friends, I can think of only 1, who went directly from secondary school to university. This picture is reflected, to some extent in a 2011 ONS (Office for National Statistics) report on Education and Training which can be viewed here.
This report illustrates how things have changed over the years when it comes to further education:-
In 2009/10 there were approximately 2.6 million students in higher education in the UK compared with 827,000 in 1980/81.
I don’t recall going to university being a big subject of discussion, as we spoke about what we would do once we left school.
In my own case that was probably due to lack of application, I just didn’t get the grades.
But even amongst my friends who did, getting a job, if one could be found, seemed to be the priority over studying for a degree.
Possibly it was because we didn’t really know that many people who had gone to university. None of our parents or siblings had been, so it wasn’t a world we really knew much about or felt part of.
But the world has moved on, the number of universities has expanded and more students from a working-class background now go to university, though there are still issues about students from the poorest backgrounds getting into the top academic institutions.
However, not everyone wants to go to university and I was reminded about my recent conversation again at the weekend, when Scottish Labour announced the Future Fund, along with opposition to tuition fees and increasing grants for the poorest students by £1000.
With this fund, Labour will use some of the money generated from cutting the tax relief that people earning over £150,000 get on their pensions and give 18 and 19 year-olds in Scotland, who don’t go to college or university, or who can’t get a modern apprenticeship, £1600 to help them as they make the transition from school to work.
Initial ideas as to what this money could be used for are driving lessons, buying work tools or using the money towards setting up a business.
To me, this is exactly the sort of thing the Labour Party should be doing.
This is a policy that redistributes wealth and invests in young people.
A group of young people who have largely been forgotten about by politicians in recent times.
It takes the traditional Labour Party values of fairness and social justice and sets them in a modern context.
The current opinion polls are clearly not the best for Labour, but bold policies such as this will hopefully win public support as the 7th May, and the only poll that matters, draws ever closer.