By Jack Street
When Jessica Johnson won the Orwell Youth Prize for her dystopian piece on a meritocratic system that judged young people’s ability based on their class, I am sure she didn’t think she would end up living in her own story. Yet in the last week, her story came true. The government’s decision to use an algorithm to determine students' GCSE grades instead of using the predicted grades their teachers had given them meant that around 40% of students had their results downgraded and led to many not being given the University places they deserved.
Predictably, those students were not happy about this decision and, after a huge public outcry by young people that had been both directly and indirectly impacted, the government u-turned on their decision. Much like the u-turn on the free school meal voucher scheme, led by footballer Marcus Rashford, the government changed their position after repeated and unrelenting pressure from the public. This has become a common occurrence with Boris Johnson’s Conservative party. The government's strategy for implementing policy seems to be focus-grouping the idea, leaking it to the public, implementing the idea and then u-turning on it when people dislike it. This marked the 6th major u-turn for this government, illustrating their ineptitude and decision making. However, and more importantly, it highlighted the power that young people have when they use their voices to speak on injustice.
In just a few days young people managed to mobilise to such an extent that the story became, and remained, headline news for days. The Government had no choice but to U-turn on the policy and implement a fairer system of grading based on teacher's predicted grades. Young people have shown more opposition in the last week than the opposition party has in years and more political leadership than the government has in years. Young people have proved that their voices are loud and powerful and that they will not stand for anything more than the highest standard of leadership.
This flies in the face of the age-old adage that “young people do not care about politics’’, something I have never believed but have had to combat for years. When coming together with a common goal there is nobody more passionate about what they believe in than young people. What must now happen is ensuring that the momentum that has been gained from this decision continues and young people are continuously given the platform to share ideas and pressure the government.
The Conservative party must remember that those that have been impacted by their lack of leadership over the past week will be of voting age at the next election. They must earn the trust of young people and ensure that they listen to what young people want. For the Conservatives, the 18-24 year old demographic has been one which they have ignored for too long. This is reflected in voting and as can be seen in the image below; if you only took into account the votes of those aged between 18 and 24, Labour would have won almost every seat in England and Wales in the last election.
Young people must be listened to when it comes to issues that impact them and platforms must elevate young voices to ensure that they are heard.
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