MP Welcomes Chiswick Students For Education Debate

Mary Macleod and pupils discuss differing opinions at House of Commons

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Mary Macleod MP, Member of Parliament for Brentford and Isleworth, welcomed five Chiswick School students from years 10 to 13 to the House of Commons this week to discuss their concerns about the rise in tuition fees and the abolition of Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).
Each student was given the opportunity to ask Mary a question and a wide ranging discussion ensued.

Fatima Abukar from year 12 explained how EMA helped students to purchase books and prevented them from having to take a part time job which she felt may hinder their studies. Mary replied that she did not believe that EMA had been well targeted to those who need it most and explained that the government is looking at other ways to support students from poorer backgrounds. She also drew attention to the Pupil Premium which will provide schools with extra resources to support students from low income families.

A long discussion about tuition fees also took place and Johanthan Adjeyi from year 10 asked whether she thought it was fair that her generation had received free higher education when his was being asked to pay for theirs. Mary thought this was unfortunate but was the consequence of the economic situation the country was now in. She said: “We were left with a huge deficit and it is always difficult coming in as a new government with no money to fund the changes we want. I am pleased however that there will be no money charged to students up front for university courses. I also think it may not be the right thing for fifty percent of pupils to go to university. There are many different pathways to success and not everyone has to go to university. Other excellent options include vocational courses and apprenticeships.”

Asked by Nathan Jones whether government policy was putting off poorer students from further education which he believes is their right, Mary replied: “I do believe that everyone should get a good education but sometimes we need to appreciate how fortunate we are in this country with its wide range of educational opportunities. In developing countries, many children do not even get a primary education which I believe we must do all we can to try and change.

“I think that those that really want to go to university will still go. We have tried to make it easier for students as they don’t have to pay up front and will only pay once they are earning more than £21,000. In fact, many of the lowest-income graduates will repay less than they do under the current system.”

Despite the differences of opinion expressed, the meeting was conducted in a spirit of mutual respect and politeness. “I would like to thank Mary for giving us time from her busy schedule to meet with us”, said Deputy Head James Whiting. “It has been a fantastic opportunity for the students to come to Westminster and put their views across.”

Mary said: “I was delighted to meet the students and hear their views. We had an excellent discussion and I wish them every success for the future”.


December 16, 2010