college

Government Sneaks Higher Fees into Schools Bill

The economy is failing, that is one thing the government can’t hide. But as the Education and Children’s Bill came out today, it was revealed that the government has tried to deceptively hide away a clause in the bill which allows for variable rates of interest on student loans – nothing to do with children, or schools: the main targets of the bill.The cover-up has not gone unnoticed.

This proposal would mean students could be paying after graduation, not only their massive burden of debt in fees, but interest on that debt which could be higher than the normal rate. Essentially, those least able to pay – working-class graduates, could face thousands of pounds of extra debt in interest. Of course, students who don’t have to take out loans won’t have to worry about this problem. The Bank of Mother and Father will take care of those privately educated young people.

The UCU has condemned the hidden clause – and even the increasingly weak NUS leadership has come out in opposition. Gove, who put forward the proposals, has been deemed a ‘power junkie’ by the NUT, as the bill also gives the minister unprecendented powers about the running of schools, while taking them out of democratic local authority control through Academies.

Tripled fees with variable interest rates will put off thousands of poorer students going to university – if indeed they can complete further education now that the EMA is being scrapped. Let’s get back out onto the streets with these worrying ‘reforms’ in mind.

 

 

Discipline returns? Gove publishes school reform – politics.co.uk.

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Truro needs a student union more than ever

For those of you who are students at Truro College, it is obvious that many at the college are involved in local politics. But when myself and another fellow student found ourselves being escorted out of our lectures last week by senior management, to a meeting with two uniformed members of police, the intention seemed clear. Stifling any emerging activism.

The two officers in the meeting room were sitting happily with another member of senior management, and proceeded to effectively interrogate us about whether we were planning a demonstration, when it would be, and where it would be.

This was a meeting in college, with police, about what we were organising outside of college. The links between Truro College and local police are, I believe, close and politicised. And in a way, frightening. The college never hesitate to bring the police in on the slightest hint of a planned peaceful protest, despite it not being legally required that even the organisers contact the authorities. They have been all too willing to hand over any details to the police, and ‘warn’ them about local activity that students are planning. This meeting was just one of several we have been pressured to have with police, for almost every demonstration over the past few months. Being told by the police that they had ‘intelligence’ about another planned protest is almost inciting paranoia, and though not anything like the involvement of anti-terror police against the student movement in London, it is still somewhat worrying for all students, regardless of their political views.

It is understandable that a further education institution would want to be in liaison with the community police force, and despite some over-policing, the local force has been broadly supportive of our right to protest – perhaps even sympathetic when one considers the scale of police cuts Cornwall. But the barrage of calls and meetings, largely organised by the college, with police, has been verging on intimidatory. For a couple of FE students to be made without warning to meet with officers to disclose plans, existent or otherwise, for demonstrations, seems to be intentionally discouraging any exercise of our legitimate right to protest.

These are not isolated events. Members of the Student Council who have been participating in the demonstrations have been threatened with removal from their posts on the student body. However weak the student council is, this sort of interference cannot be tolerated. Elected members are being told they cannot march for their political views or they will be kicked off the council. An NUS-backed union would go a long way to stopping this happening.

At a time when young people are facing unprecedented attacks from the Tory-led government with the scrapping of the EMA, the tripling of fees, high youth unemployment and the effective privatisation of our education system, we need representation more than ever, we need to be allowed to express our political views without fear of recrimination, and we need an independent voice that does not have to submit to the whims of senior management.

Our attempts to form a union have so far been met with difficulty. We were refused a direct meeting with the Principal, and have been waiting for weeks for a meeting with the Director of Studies, who has several times postponed the planned meeting. It cannot wait any longer. The NUS are asking for delegates for the conference in just a few months, and ideally we need an SU before then. So we are asking all students, UCU/NUS members, activists and representatives to back our campaign.

There are some things deeply wrong with Truro College. The fact that there are more business-owners on the governing board than students, the lack of transparency in how the college is run, or the unfolding farce that is the poorly funded and powerless Student Council – these are all troubling issues, and for the many problems, there is a solution. Students need representation, independence and political freedom. We need a union.

Activists storm council in Truro against scrapping of EMA

Around 40 students and activists marched over two miles to County Hall in Truro today to protest against the government’s scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance. The demonstrators marched with placards saying ‘Don’t Con-Dem Us to Unemployment’, chanting ‘education for the masses, not just for the ruling classes’. The march was met with huge support from members of the public.Upon arriving at County Hall, the main Cornwall Council building, the protesters continued chanting and many members of staff and councilors offered their support. The cold weather and exam period had meant many could not attend but the atmosphere was incredibly positive.

Most dramatically though was when six protesters got into the main council meeting and began putting up anti-cuts posters and shouting ‘no ifs, no buts, no education cuts’, before being removed. The short occupation shifted the debate from the trivial topic of an adult products store in the city to the more important matter of education and funding for deprived students.

Max Stephens, a college student and activist, said ‘The fight-back has started and we invite people in Cornwall to join us in solidarity in future actions.’ Lisa Camps, another main organiser, echoed this – ‘We won’t let our voices be drowned out amid the government’s vehemently anti-student rhetoric.’

Another Truro College student said ‘The EMA helps thousands of students from low-income backgrounds in Cornwall and across the country continue with higher education, and despite the turnout the demonstration today was an important part of the overall campaign against the cuts in the county.’

The protest was organised as part of Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance after several large protests in the city against cuts to education, and represented part of the resistance campaign. There will be more demonstrations as socialists, workers and students plan their next moves for the local fight-back.

Demonstrations like these are bringing various left-wing groups and community organisations together in the county – today saw comrades from the Socialist Party of Great Britain, SWP, Labour, anarcho-syndicalists and even Lib Dem councilors uniting.

Truro students to march in defence of the EMA

Students and activists in Truro will protest on the 11th of January against the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance, which benefits thousands of young people in Cornwall. Since EMAs are provided by local councils, we will be marching from near the college to County Hall in defence of the up to £30 a week payment which is targeted at students from deprived and lower-income backgrounds.

The demonstration will begin at around 12:15, with campaigners congregating in McDonald’s car-park. Local media and supporters are urged to come, as well as students from Truro College and other sixth forms and schools in the city.

The scrapping of the EMA scheme will make it significantly more difficult for many young people to continue with further education and then go on to higher education, meaning university education will once more become inaccessible to working class students. This effect is intensified when the tripling of tuition fees is taken into account. It is clear that the Tory-led coalition is intent on making it as difficult as possible for those who aren’t wealthy to stay on and study after school.

EMAs have increased further education attendance, helping cover the cost of transport, books and resources for over 600,000 post-16 year olds. It is vital that we defend the scheme, brought in by Labour only seven or so years ago, and the demonstration hopes to pressure both Cornwall Council and central government to keep providing it. We do have the money to keep the EMA – the richest thousand in the UK last year increased their wealth by £77bn, and bankers took in £7bn in bonuses this Christmas. An increase in taxation upon that wealth could cover continuing the EMA scheme and abolish tuition fees.

RSVP via the Facebook event page.

Bring placards, banners, and friends!

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Those who do not wish to march from near Truro College to County Hall can meet us there – it is expected that we will arrive at County Hall at around 1pm.

Day X – Student Resistance Reaches Towns Across UK. Falmouth and Truro Join the Action

Thousands of students took to the streets today as part of the national Day of Action, organised by the National Campaign Against Fees And Cuts (NCAFC), with the backing of Education Activist Network and the Right to Work campaign.

What made today inspiring was the fact that over 100,000 young people, according to the NCAFC, protested across the country – without the backing of the National Union of Students. If this many people can organise without the NUS, it shows what a powerful thing this movement is becoming.

Over 100 Students in Truro Protest

The demonstration in Truro involved up to 150 students, marching over 2 miles in the pouring rain to County Hall to protest against the rise in fees. Not only was this organised locally and independently, these students left the warm and dry indoors to say ‘no’ to the coalition’s unfair proposals.

For a while the main road into Truro was blocked while we marched down, showing how large the numbers involved were considering the usually politically-complacent nature of Truro. With banners and placards, chants of ‘no ifs, no buts, no education cuts’ resounded around the city, and other cities nationwide.

Regional Unison officer Stuart Roden was well received, calling for students and workers to unite to stop the cuts. This was echoed by myself when I spoke, saying ‘we are all in this together, and we are the big society’ – just not the Big Society that the Tories envisioned in their misleading rhetoric.

Both the press and the police had a considerable presence, though the atmosphere was congenial. ITV, Sky News, the BBC and local newspapers interviewed the students and seemed impressed by the size of the demonstration.

We headed into the town centre to further spread the message, supported by members of the public with plenty of waving and horn-beeping.

Though perhaps overshadowed with the dubious reporting of one police van being trashed in London, press coverage was positive. Notwithstanding a BBC Cornwall presenter going around shouting ‘these cuts are necessary’, she did concede we were peaceful and ‘good natured’.

The protest came to an end at around 3pm, and being larger than the protest on the 10th, was a great success. Students are already preparing for the next demonstration outside County Hall at 8am on the 30th November, where we will be alongside trade unionists and Labour party members to oppose the council budget which will put thousands of workers in Cornwall out of their jobs and affect post-16 funding for transport.

Falmouth Protest

Students in Falmouth also staged their own demonstration, with up to 80 of them making their resistance known. We offer our solidarity, and will be joining them on the 8th as part of a huge occupation of Falmouth moor. Full coverage of the event can be found here at the Falmouth Packet.

Worldwide

The anger of thousands of students in the UK was reflected in Rome, too, today, as hundreds there marched against education cuts. More info at Socialist Worker.

Don’t prevent poorer students going to college – Save EMA

Of all the cuts being made over the next few months, perhaps one of the least noted ones is that of Education Maintenance Allowance, or EMA. The government said they were going to ‘replace’ it – but in reality the whole of its budget is being scrapped, with practically nothing left to support students from poorer backgrounds.

An NUS survey in 2008 found that over two thirds of those receiving the £30 in EMA a week could not carry on in further education without it, meaning when it is cancelled, a huge number of working class young people will be effectively denied the opportunity to go to college and prepare them for what they want to do. Another policy, then, that prevents the poor from succeeding and instead condemns many to a job-path they do not want to take.

Thousands of students have been speaking out against the scrapping of EMA. James Mills recently started the Save EMA campaign, which I strongly recommend supporting. 16-19 year olds have been saying how the removal of the scheme will affect them – one said ‘“I need EMA my mum is on benefits and I am a full-time student at college without EMA I can’t go to college I will have to drop out and I don’t want to do that”.

With job opportunities limited, and less than a fifth of employers willing to hire people straight from school, it is vital that teenagers from poor households do not fall into unemployment and can go to college. Since one in 10 university graduates from 2009 are still unemployed a year on, think about how much higher this figure is for those unable to go even just to college or sixth form after school.

Alongside the abolition of EMA, another revelations last week is that 24 universities will see their entire teaching grants scrapped. Gone. 73 universities are having their grants cut by more than three quarters. This is devastating news for students who will be paying up to £9k a year to receive a significantly lower standard of education, when already contact time is minimal as lecturers focus more on research.

Bridget Phillipson is a Labour MP who received EMA and is supporting the Save EMA campaign. There are politicians willing to stand up in parliament for students. But our main platform will be the streets, social networks, and the media. Through these we can explain that youth unemployment is not conducive to economic recovery. Training our young people on the other hand, is.

Save EMA » MP who was on EMA backs Save EMA.

Sign the petition here at Save EMA.