Monday 29 November 2010

My 15 year old daughter writes to Nick Clegg about tuition fees

When I showed my daughter "Letter No 2: Tuition Fees", she decided to send Nick one herself.  I'm not sure that Lydia's letter needs much more introduction than this, as she has eloquently made her point.  I do hope he is able to reply very soon...

Thursday 25 November 2010

A reply from The Rt. Hon. Charles Kennedy, M.P.

Mid November I contacted a few Lib Dem MPs, expressing my concerns and asking them to honour their pre election pledge.  I want to share this reply I received from Charles Kennedy.
I was really heartened to get this reply - maybe more will keep their word?  Yesterday I attended the student protest in Brighton (and also marched in London on 10th November).  Obviously the majority of protesters were students and lecturers, but there were also a considerable number of angry, concerned parents - even some grandparents and people who had no children themselves but felt the changes to HE are wrong in principle and bad for everyone.  Each time people explained why they were there, the same issues came up; fairness, accessibility for poorer students, being debt averse, the promise made by all 57 Lib Dem MPs and their focussed pursuit of student votes during the election campaign.  Many like me are still incredulous that Nick Clegg had decided before the election that he would break his promise, yet continued to campaign on the strength of fairness and transparency.  What was it he said again? "There should be no more broken promises..."
So, on the strength of feeling at yesterday's protests (continuing I see with overnight sit-ins in at least three universities), I shall send a few more MPs a nudge today - anyone else up for a bit of letter writing?

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Letter No 2: Tuition Fees

This second letter came about because my daughter began talking about how concerned and angry she felt about the increase in tuition fees.  My heart sank; my working class parents had spent all my childhood instilling in me and my three siblings the importance of gaining a good education (including college or university) and now their middle class granddaughter felt it might be beyond her reach, because she couldn't afford it.  If she's feeling so anxious, what must the poorest 25% of students be feeling?
   Thirty years ago I was an ordinary kid living on a council estate who got to go to art college and it changed my life in so many valuable ways.  Like many of the poorer students today I was worried about incurring debt and I know that if I hadn't had financial support, I wouldn't have considered pursuing the career I now have, because "people like me don't become artists".  Without that grant I could never have gained my degree, nor would I have spent a large part of my working life passing on what I've learnt.  I know from personal experience that worry of such debt will now discourage many poorer able kids from even thinking about university (let's talk about EMA another time).  The hike in fees feels regressive.  A great deal of the work I do involves encouraging young people to think beyond the definitions imposed by (lack of) income, opportunity or self-belief.  Society is richer for their potential being fulfilled.  Poorer students are as clever and able as rich ones; it seems immoral to me that the opportunity to invest in their skills and ambitions might now be wasted simply because the Coalition knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Saturday 20 November 2010

Letter No 1: Fairness

I have watched with increasing concern the changes proposed by David Cameron and Nick Clegg. I am aware that there are an awful lot of people who share my anxiety, yet unlike me they don't believe their voice matters.  I think it does.  Time and time again, people have said: What's the point?  Nobody will listen if I make a fuss.  Not true.  Protest works.   We all just need to do our bit.   Here's the beginning of mine.