As members of the UK Youth Parliament, it is our job to listen to our constituents and give them a shouting voice in decisions that affect them. The Education Roundtable, which happened in late February, was a very good opportunity to help fulfil this role. 12 Members of Youth Parliament eagerly put an array of education related ideas and questions from their constituents to Baroness Barran MBE, who is a Minister in England’s Department of Education.
The Baroness took in our ideas and viewpoints while answering questions with detail.
We got to hear her thoughts from a variety of angles, including from her perspective as a parent, which gave a further and detailed insight into her personal views. I think overall, it was a very successful conversation, as a variety of ideas were given and a huge selection of questions were answered, giving a great insight into the ideas of Baroness Barran herself and what is happening in the education sector more broadly.
Discussion was centred around six key points:
- Options available in education
- The challenges of unaffordable school meals
- Equipping SEND (Special educational needs and disabilities) students with the right knowledge and training to ensure students achieve their full potential
- The impact of changes in student loans
- The impact of the decrease of funding in state schools
- Improving guidance in careers
With a space for questions and answers at the end. Points of discussion included:
- The Westminster Government’s targeting careers guidance at younger ages, and the new forms of apprenticeships and education available for 16-18 (These are called “Flexi-Apprenticeships” and T-Levels).
- The Westminster Government’s review of Free School Meals, which are at their highest number ever, with over a quarter of children and young people now receiving them. The acknowledgement that there is a lot that is quite broken in the area of SEND in schools, including a reform from 2014.
- The Westminster Government’s plans for lowering the interest rates on mortgages, which could happen if everyone repaid their Student Loans in full.
- The acknowledgement that by 2024-2025, educational funding will be the highest it has ever been: but that it is dangerous to generalise on this as schools are funded per capita.
- Careers advisors, and a young person’s belief that every school should have one.
- School options at GCSE, and what subjects would best broaden educational depth.
- The Westminster Government’s proposed push for EBacc (English language, English literature, maths, double science or biology, chemistry and physics, history or geography and a language) subjects.
The Baroness was very pleased with our prior research and preparation for the Roundtable. She apologised for the questions she had been unable to answer, and said it had been lovely meeting all of the Group, who offered their thanks to the Baroness in turn. Overall, I felt the Roundtable went brilliantly: it was very fun and a great experience to be a part of! I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to get our constituents’ ideas across.