We know boys learn kinaesthetically. We have understood this for a long time and now neuroscience backs up what every teacher and parent could have told you anyway. Boys, generally speaking, find it hard to sit still, they have seemingly limitless energy, want to take risks, explore, and do it for themselves. But national government education policy and politics confines them to the classroom, for several hours a day, participating in a group learning style that goes against the hard wired grain.
For some boys, whose parents have money, they can be compensated. They can run around the garden after school, look forward to the skiing holiday in February, the weekends in the second home in the country, the Easter continental break, the summer holiday abroad. They can take advantage of the home tutoring to get into private or selective school where they will have playing fields and facilities literally on their doorstep which schools in North Lambeth simply do not have. They can take advantage of being introduced, by their parents, to their possible future employer at dinner. Their parents will buy them the car and the lessons, pay the school fees, contribute to university and bail them out when they step over the line. You get the picture. You know these lads. They are your sons and neighbours. And why would they not take every advantage handed down to them? That’s just common sense.
But what of the boys who don’t have a garden, never go on holiday, don’t know anyone who works in the City, can’t hang out at the one and only local concrete 5-a-side pitch because they come from the wrong estate, don’t have the money to hire out the recording studio, get stopped and searched regularly on the way home from school, and get punished at school for having just too much energy and life? You know these lads too. They are your sons and they are your neighbours. They are the same brilliant and talented boys as those above. Some may go to university and end up as lawyers, teachers or accountants. But a lot won’t. And the difference is, they don’t have the same chances in life as their richer peers. So whilst a few may fulfil their ambitions and realise their talents, they have such a harder task in getting there, in getting over the barriers of inequality. And some won’t make it.
Because the fact is that absolute and relative poverty are on the increase in the UK despite us being one of the richest countries in the world and we know that poverty has a significant impact upon our children’s educational outcomes, see http://oval-labourclp132.nationbuilder.com/nolaschools
So, what are the consequences for those lads who don’t have the same opportunities as their neighbours? Well, we put them on the outside, because they see and experience that the sharing and treatment isn’t fair. And the risk is they can get left behind. And they can make the wrong choices for themselves because it is so much harder to make the right choice for yourself when the array on the table on front of you is so limited. When so many barriers are in the way. When you don’t have the luxury of sometimes making mistakes, which is what youth is supposed to be about, but that it will all be alright in the end. What if it is not?
Our challenge is to keep these lads on this side, the hope and opportunity side, so they don’t end up Inside. Which some may do. “You can earn more money selling drugs than you can working at McDonalds” we were told recently at a youth workshop.
Our sons deserve a safe space to hang out, to socialise and explore and develop, whether that be to play football or make music. A space that is accessible and affordable, and is somewhere they want to be. It’s not just a physical space though. I have witnessed a 13 year old’s future expand with possibility through the patient and empathetic mentoring of a Youth Offending worker, who understood what it was like to stand in his young charge’s shoes and listened to him like he was worth the effort. Because he was. And our lads deserve us to expect and demand from them their very best and deserve us to enable them to make the right choices.
When the bankers brought the global economy to its knees, the 2010 Tory and Lib Dem government’s response was Austerity. To cut public services more than they had been since the second world war, a policy which hits the poorest the most. Our budget at Lambeth Council has, since 2010, been cut by 56%. This means cuts in local services. And with a new funding formula being introduced by the government for our schools, Lambeth will again be one of the biggest losers. Even though George Osborne acknowledged his fiscal policy isn’t working, it hasn’t stopped, and our young people will feel it for years to come. Inequality is on the increase. Those in poverty are becoming more impoverished.
On top of this, the Tory/Lib Dem government piled yet more pressure on our teachers, who already work exceptionally hard and have brought so much success to our schools in Lambeth, by changing the curriculum and exam system, putting yet more barriers into the paths of our children. And these disadvantages are compounded by factors such as your family having to move home due to rising rents and insecure tenancies in the private rented sector, or being placed in care due to neglect or difficulties at home. What chance any of these young people will ever be able to afford to rent their own home yet alone buy it?
We cannot change current government policy, although we continue to argue and lobby for a fairer way, and we will not stop. But sadly, Labour is not at this time in government. However, we now have an opportunity through the Co-operative Local Investment Plan (CLIP) for North Lambeth (NoLa) to remove some of the barriers for some of our lads, so that they have a fairer crack of the whip and may not be left behind. You can find out more about the CLIP here. Consultation starts on January 6th 2017.
We welcome ideas for how the money could be invested, to create opportunities for local young people who otherwise would not have them, to help our communities to be more inclusive and not accept exclusion through poverty as inevitable. Inequality is forcing some of our young neighbours to walk a fine line and is limiting their choices. We need to show them we have their back. This makes our whole community stronger.
So, to our young neighbours and their parents and teachers, we want to hear from you- what would make a difference to your future choices? We want to hear your voice and listen to what you have to tell us. Please join in the consultation here or contact us directly via our website Oval Labour.
Oval Labour Councillor
Deputy Cabinet Member for Children and Schools