by Daphne Liddle
YOUNG people leaving school in Britain face a very bleak future today. Universities are cutting back on the number of places and many applicants are being turned down; those who do get a place face a future in deep debt and it is now harder for school leavers to get a job than it has been for at least 15 years.
According to figures released last week by the Department for Children, Schools and Families there are now 100,000 more young people between 18 and 24 who are not attending school or college nor in employment than there were at this time last year.
These young people are now described as “Neets” - Not in Employment, Education or Training and their growing numbers show the devastating impact that the current recession is having on young people.
Overall, 959,000 16 to 24-year-olds - 15.9 per cent of the age group - are Neets, compared to 840,000 - 14 per cent - a year ago.
There are 233,000 Neets aged 16 to 18, 13,000 more than at the start of the year and 24,000 more than this time last year. Last week, the unemployment statistics showed that the number of under-25s without a job stands close to one million, with 928,000 out of work.
Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said: “We cannot afford to lose another generation of young people to unemployment and underachievement.
“Tackling this crisis won’t come cheap. We need more employers to take on apprentices and the Government must ensure its guarantee of training or work for young people out of work continues to be well funded, as demand will be high.”
Martin Freeman, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “For an 18-24 year old a year is a long time to be out of work, and could do huge damage to their self-confidence.”
Those who are lucky enough to find a university place face increasing levels of debt. The Push Student Debt Survey of 2,024 students at varying stages of their degree courses showed that students start ing university courses this autumn can expect to graduate owing £23,000.
It found that student debts currently average £5,000 a year and this is rising as universities raise course fees.
Separate research by the National Union of Students suggests some degrees have higher “hidden costs” than others, such as for equipment or books.
The Government claimed it was spending £5 billion this year on student support.
Debt levels vary in different regions. In London some students say they will have over £30,000 of debt by the time they finish their course.
Most students, especially those from working class families, try to offset their debts by getting holiday jobs and part-time jobs during term time - even though this makes them too tired to get the best degrees they could get.
But now these jobs are drying up and many working class students are being deterred from applying for university. The separate NUS study found that, for some university courses, students had to pay out costs. Students of maths and computer science spent the most - an average of £1,430.40 per year on books and equipment, the study said.
NUS president Wes Streeting said universities needed to “be more open”.
“There should be better information, advice and guidance about student finance on university websites and in their prospectuses,” he said.
For those yet to leave school a report from the Prince’s trust and Sheffield University estimated that one in five teenagers getting their GCSE results this month are likely to be getting unemployment benefit by the time they are 21.
The estimations are based on trends seen during previous recessions.
A new generation of working class youth now faces poverty, demoralisation and either long-hours of drudgery or forced idleness - while their upper class fellows face a life of the best education money can buy and glittering careers with their paths eased by cash and all the right connections. The class divide will yawn wider and wider.
There will be no pretence of equal rights to higher education.
How long will we put up with this?
If we cannot give our young people anything else, we must give them an education in the class struggle and equip them to fight for themselves and each other against this unjust system.