“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela

A consequence of poverty / low level deprivation and the chaos that follows close behind, is educational disaffection and potentially exclusion. This is all too often the reality for many of the children and young people in the U.K.

I understand that school isn’t ‘for’ everyone, I was one of those who didn’t fit in the school box. School required me to conform to a design for learning created by a group of people almost entirely disconnected from my day-to-day reality. Thankfully I had the community and family support around me to keep my little box on the conveyor belt that was the education system I was part of, as I progressed through each QC check (quality control check) – SATs, GCSE’s, AS Levels, A Levels… I also had the opportunity to pursue interests outside of school hours that would engage me in something positive, wholesome and character building. Thankfully that meant that I wouldn’t become a cloned box, produced by a system to serve a system. What would’ve happened if I didn’t have family or community support around me to keep my little box moving along the conveyor belt of my education life? What would’ve happened if I didn’t have access to opportunities to pursue my interests and passions? Here is the answer summed up in 3 powerful words; DISAFFECTION, EXCLUSION and HOPELESSNESS.

Disaffection, exclusion and hopelessness are all words that hang over the heads of too many children and young people in the U.K. . The root cause of these three words is poverty and it’s multi-faceted meanings and contributory factors. I think it stinks and needs binning. 

As I thought about the word ‘POVERTY’, I was reminded of a young person I used to work alongside. I saw him struggle through primary school, fall at the first hurdle at secondary school and, shockingly, end up in a systematic oblivion. He was 13 when I last saw him and had been forgotten by a system setup to provide him with the tools to navigate through life and make positive contributions to society. His family had battled on his behalf but had been ignored and pushed aside because their way of articulating frustration wasnt the same as those who had made conscious decisions to lose their wonderful young person from the education system. I battled on his behalf and had been given false promises and had messages passed on (which had likely been filed under ‘o’ for ‘oops I lost it’). This young person was not been seen as the responsibility of a system who had a statutory responsibility for his education for 9 months. An utter disgrace. His story isn’t an isolated one, i have worked with with numerous young people who have been ‘lost’ by the system. This has to stop! Their poverty of education may well be initiated by them feeling disaffected with a system that doesn’t ‘suit’ them, but it is being exacerbated by a system established to serve THEM.

This ‘poverty gripe’ of mine might just involve one young person, but his life is precious. He is a wonderful young person. The potential within him is incredible.

Let me encourage you to wrap up and bin poverty, to bringing social justice for the lost, to make your voice on this issue and many others louder.

Together, we have the power to change the status quo and could see real societal and systemic change.

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