A group of 19 students from Hereward College took part in a national demonstration against educational inequality outside the Houses of Parliament yesterday (16th June).
The young people joined other students from specialist colleges across the country as part of the ‘Right not a Fight’ campaign. Right not a Fight gives young people with disabilities a platform to voice their concerns about lack of information, guidance and advice over education, training and employment options.
Hereward student Joey Mander (17) said:
“We want a level playing field so that learners with additional needs have the same life chances in terms of our education as non-disabled young people. We want choice and we know that comes at a cost, trying to get funding to attend the college of our choice is a constant reminder of that. But choice is surely a right that we shouldn’t always have to fight for?
“Before I came to Hereward I was in a mainstream school which wasn’t a good experience for me. I wasn’t accepted and I couldn’t get the support I needed. I was struggling to cope with the world because of my autism and didn’t know where to get the help I needed.
“It was only by accident I learned about Hereward. There isn’t enough information out there about specialist colleges. However, it wasn’t easy getting a place and it is so wrong that we have to show how disabled we are in order to get funded for a place. Sometimes it’s like you can’t win; if you’re too disabled they say ‘why bother?’ and if you’re not disabled enough you can’t get a place. It’s so frustrating and unfair.”
Hereward student Dan Crossfield (18) said:
“Lots of young people don’t get to go to the college of their choice and that’s worrying. Colleges like Hereward are really important because they are safe places to be, they’re places that we can learn at our own pace, where we get additional support and nobody says ‘Oh, you must be thick then!’. Above all specialist colleges are ‘can do’ places, where people don’t put a ceiling on your aspirations, they say: ‘yes – go for it – give it a try’. That’s why I chose Hereward but lots of young people just don’t have that choice.”
Sheila Fleming, Principal at Hereward College said:
“Young people with additional needs face a whole range of challenges in order to get the education and equality they deserve. I am so proud of the young people at Hereward, campaigning for what both they and the College believe in.”