View from City Hall: Give Free travel to pupils, says Florence Eshalomi

News Desk (09 September, 2020)

'Taking away this right from young Londoners is not only unjust and set to hit the poorest families the hardest, but also unworkable'

34310Florence Eshalomi, MP for Vauxhall and Southwark and Lambeth assembly member

I would like to congratulate all of our local young people who recently received their A Level and GCSE results, having worked very hard this year under extraordinary and difficult circumstances, writes Florence Eshalomi AM…

Frustratingly, we saw the obstacles placed in front of students by the Covid-19 outbreak, compounded by the government’s disastrous handling of how grades were awarded in the wake of exam cancellations.

Let’s be clear, the government were warned well in advance of results day about the many potential pitfalls of their grading algorithm, including how it would disproportionately impact pupils from BAME and disadvantaged backgrounds. Whilst the education secretary finally apologised and made some concessions to the countless students who were unfairly downgraded, we shouldn’t forget that there are many young people still seeking justice and facing needless uncertainty.

Right now, we should be investing in the future of our young people, not penalising them. However, if the downgrading fiasco wasn’t enough, the government are still pursuing the suspension of free travel for thousands of secondary school and sixth form pupils across the capital.

At the most recent London Assembly Plenary meeting, we passed a motion calling upon the Department for Transport to scrap this policy with immediate effect. Taking away this right from young Londoners is not only unjust and set to hit the poorest families the hardest, but also unworkable. The government was warned long ago that, in reality, implementing this proposal will put yet more pressure on the already dwindling resources of local authorities, schools and Transport for London.

From City Hall, the mayor has recognised the huge potential of young people across all of the capital’s diverse communities. Against the backdrop of sustained government cuts to youth services, City Hall has put in place a £45 million Young Londoners Fund to divert the most vulnerable children away from violent crime through early intervention projects. More recently, a new £2.1 million fund was introduced, targeted at helping young people who have been worst affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Finally, I would like to reiterate my thanks to residents and businesses in the borough for continuing the fight against the pandemic by following social distancing guidelines. It has not been an easy time for anyone, but if we continue to all play our part, we can prevent a second wave and protect our NHS in the coming winter months.

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