Why I’m Tired Of Students Being Disregarded Amidst The COVID-19 Pandemic

This young generation will seriously struggle in the future. I knew it the minute the pandemic started to hit every aspect of our life other than our health.

Of course, everyone is going to struggle. Most young people don’t have families to provide for, or job losses that will result in them fighting to keep up with the rent, living pay check to pay check. But think to the future: the government have invested so much money into saving businesses, healthcare and the functioning of our everyday society (surpassing £190 billion, as of July 2020), which as good as it is, will leave the government in a deficit. Who’s going to have to pay for everything? Us, the younger generation.

Although, funnily enough, this isn’t the thing I’m the most upset about. It was always inevitable that we would have to pay off the money being spent, probably through a tax rise. But on top of this, they’ve been blatantly disregarding us students.

Let’s start with university students: we still have to continue to pay £9,250 a year in tuition fees, despite not being provided the same service. We started the year with strikes and topped it off with an early closure due to COVID-19, limited access to resources and virtual teaching, which ultimately, isn’t what we signed up for. I know at my university (on my course at least), they tried very hard to be there for us as much as possible and provide as much as they could, but it just isn’t the same. What did the government say? It’s not our issue. No seriously, there was a whole petition rejected because it is the responsibility of individual universities.

Tell me, why should we pay the same amount and be in the same amount of debt for a service which isn’t the same? Especially going into next year, it will continue to be a limited service, and we may even have a shorter year by the looks of it. I personally don’t believe it’s fair that we should be asked to pay the same amount. I would even take a cut in the payment over free university, because they still need the funds to run. I’m already against the amount currently (I’m sure that the rise from £3000 to £9000-£9250 didn’t have to be so large, especially when university was free just over a decade before, but I understand they need to sustain the quality of learning. I just believe it could’ve been increased in smaller measures).  

As a university student, this discussion has popped up multiple times over the period of COVID-19. But what really appalled me recently was the cuts of travel for children under 18 and the A Level results fiasco. I can’t even imagine being in their position.

Let’s start with the cuts to travel. Free transport for under 18’s in London will be suspended in September due to a government and TFL bailout. I remember taking free travel for granted – I never knew there to be a place where under 18’s travel wasn’t free. There should be absolutely no place where children can’t go to school because they don’t have the money to get there. Paying for travel will come as a huge expense to everyone, but will hit those with low incomes the hardest. It is absolutely unacceptable to me that this was even a concept that came into someone’s mind.

After signing the petition to scrap the removal of free travel, I received an update on Friday regarding the petition. The government argues that this ‘will help reduce demand for public transport at peak times during the COVID-19 pandemic’ and that £1.6 billion was given to ensure safer travel, so the suspension of free travel for under 18’s will help facilitate safe travel for those who need to use it. I understand the safety purposes, but is travelling to school not a priority? Do these kids not need to use public transport? Not everyone has access to a car or other measures of travel to be able not to use public transport. It shouldn’t be a choice of who can afford to do it.

Alongside this, the response also stated that those eligible for free home to school travel under national legislation will still receive it. I would love to know what qualifies someone to have free travel is and where the margin lies, as I can imagine there will be some people pushed out of this because they can just about manage to afford it, but will still struggle. Tell me why these young students should have to take the cuts? I’m very interested to see how this will play out.

Lastly, the A Level results day. How I would hate to be receiving my results right now. It is absolutely beyond me how the government would decide that grades will have to be altered based on their socioeconomic backgrounds and status of their school. Reading an article from the Guardian and other sources online, such as Instagram, those with lower socioeconomic backgrounds were the most likely to have the grades put forward by their teachers overruled. Private schools benefited the most, with 49% of entries receiving an A grade or above (increased by 4.7% between 2019-2020, the biggest increase out of every centre type), whilst comprehensive schools only has 22% of students achieving an A or above.

Let’s start with the blatantly obvious problem: who’s to say that someone, who may come from the most disadvantaged background possible, can’t be incredibly smart? I’m sure those with disadvantaged backgrounds worked incredibly hard, maybe even harder, than some of those in independent schools, all to have their grades altered because of their backgrounds? What sort of discrimination is this? It makes zero sense and I’m shocked that the government were even allowed to do this.

Problem number two is that I feel that the teacher’s grades may be the most representative, so there was no need for government input. Although there is a chance of teachers marking higher for the benefit of school statistics, or teachers marking higher based on class favourites, I think teachers know a student best, and, with evidence of previous exams and classwork grades, an average grade could have been presented with no input necessary from the government.

A suggestion I would have put in place from the beginning is that I actually think it was more than possible for students to sit their exams. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the tables are already distanced to stop cheating, but schools could have distanced further, used multiple spaces and sent students in one by one, cleaning desks after every exam. I genuinely believe exams could have been sat, although I’m aware they missed out on a lot of teaching, so this would have been harder and would have come with its problems.

My final issue with the A Level results is how it impacts their future. At that age, A Level results mean a great deal: it affects their university applications (it’s up to individual universities how they choose to accept, but I have seen many step up to help out students and be more lenient), their apprenticeship placements and their job prospects, which oftentimes require a minimum grade. These results affect many factors of their lives currently, and it’s completely unfair that this is the way the government have decided to handle this situation amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is my opinion that students really have had the wrong end of the stick during this pandemic, and honestly I think that’s an understatement. No government is going to be perfect, but I believe these situations could have been handled a lot better and the government should stop hurting student’s futures.

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