Last week, I voted against the scrapping of student grants in the House of Commons. Scrapping maintenance grants in favour of loans deliberately targets students from the lowest income families who are working hard and doing the right thing.
The Tories attempted to force through these sweeping changes in a Committee – rather than on the floor of the House of Commons – a policy that wasn’t even included in the Conservative Party election manifesto. It was Labour that forced the Government to debate these plans. It’s Labour that will continue to fight to reverse these damaging changes.
Instead of investing in future generations, the Tories are betraying students and making life harder for those from the poorest backgrounds. An estimated 500,000 students from lower income families will leave university with substantially higher debts than their better-off peers. This change would mean that the poorest 40% of students going to university in England will graduate with debts of up to £53,000 from a three-year course, will impact on students studying at further education colleges.
The Government’s own equality impact assessment shows that mature students, women, disabled learners, students from BME backgrounds and Muslim students will be detrimentally impacted by the scrapping of maintenance grants. The Government is curbing young people’s aspirations and limiting their opportunities to get on in life.
I think it is appalling that the Conservatives are happy to let thousands of young people, mainly from northern England, struggle through education. If we want to make sure our future is one of good quality jobs, based outside London, then we need to make sure our young people have everything they need to get us there.
Labour is clear that the Government should be doing all it can to ensure that those from the poorest backgrounds reach their full potential. Whether that’s going into higher education – via university or further education institutions – or getting a good quality apprenticeship.
This column originally appeared in the Tameside Reporter on 27th January 2016