Schools are becoming little more than exam factories, photo by David Hawgood/CC

Schools are becoming little more than exam factories, photo by David Hawgood/CC   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

John S, school student, south London

On 23 August, this year’s GCSE students faced the dreaded ‘results day’ – luckily for me it’s not until 2019. But with every passing day you grow a little more scared of that looming event.

That’s natural though, right? It’s normal to be afraid of exams, right? Yes, fear of an exam hall is normal. Working in a system set up against you on the other hand, shouldn’t be.

In the last five years alone, almost £1 billion was cut from youth services. From 2012 to 2016 almost 600 youth centres shut. Who knows how many more since then? On top of council-run services, local authority funding for voluntary sector youth work has fallen by an average of 35% too.

If money in these areas is all going down, what’s going up? The bonuses, the profits and the fat cats’ bellies. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos makes over $250 million a day! Meanwhile, last year Amazon paid only £4.6 million in UK corporation tax.

Why does this matter to us in schools? In real terms, £2.8 billion has been cut from our schools since 2015.

Gove – the Tory education minister who brought in the GCSE changes – said the new exam system was to make Britain compete with Hong Kong and Shanghai. But the most successful education systems are those with fewer exams – they tend to correspond with lower wage inequality, higher educational attainment and fewer mental health issues among students.

Why is the government – aided and encouraged by their big business friends – cutting education, youth services, housing and healthcare while the pockets of the super-rich get heavy with gold? Why, when they know people will suffer? Why, when they know there’s a link between this austerity and youth crime?

The GCSE changes turned everything into a stressful memory test you have to do in year 11. You have to memorise a novel, poems and context – never mind all the equations. Who can do that while they watch an aunty cry because the bailiffs knocked on her door, or because her son was stabbed?

They know what they’re doing. And they know we can stop them. Let’s fight back.

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We call for:

  • An end to all cuts to further education colleges and schools
  • Grants for all college students
  • Reversing all cuts to youth and careers services
  • Scrapping of university fees
  • A £10 an hour minimum wage for all