Young people should be given room to learn, grow and make mistakes.

As it exists, the education system is a pressure cooker waiting to burst. Pressure, applied at all angles, from parents wanting the best for their children, politicians seeking re-election and legacy by producing mass unsubstantiated reforms, teachers driven by targets. At the bottom, feeling every bit of the pressure applied onto them, differently by each counterpart are young people. Powerless, voiceless and in fear.

The experience of young people in the current education system is one of perpetual confusion. What is the purpose of it all, to go to school, do well and get a good job? The standards needed to do ‘well’ are constantly changing, so what does that really mean? Society has a strange, archaic and extremely macho view of success, it is also full class prejudice, so who gets to define what it really is?  

Success at a private school in Oxford is a very different thing compared to an inner city comprehensive in Manchester. It is important that every young person is given an equal opportunity to ‘achieve’, but what if your dream is to be a carer looking after the elderly? By the measurements used, you would not be considered successful. Looking after our elderly though is vital to a civil and functioning society, so why not?

Our education system should be all the things we want from society: compassion, patience, individuality as well as collectiveness. Plato believed that the highest purpose of education is to nurture a person to be a better human being.

That is a far cry from what we currently have. Politicians, seemingly making it up as they go along, worried about being voted out of power, parents confused as to whether politicians are telling the truth and teachers confused by the politicians.

It is time to go back to the core, which is to provide an environment where young people can develop, learn and thrive. My experience, and that of many working class young people at RECLAIM is to have the wide eyed optimism taken from them. The openness showed by the school boy Jack on the Channel 4 show, Educating Greater Manchester to befriend his class mate, Rani from Syria who he viewed as just another young boy like himself, despite the things he had heard about the country on TV is often taken away by the prejudice and caution of adults around them.

By the end the joy of learning is squeezed out, the enjoyment removed, and you are in fear of making mistakes.

The room for a working class young person to make mistakes are limited, there are often no second chances. For the student at Cambridge who burned a £20 note in-front of a homeless person but was allowed to remain to finish his studies, or the student at Oxford who was described by a judge as having an extraordinary talent for medicine as she was brought to court for stabbing her boyfriend, opportunity and second chances are a familiarity, and mistakes are just hiccups. This room to learn from your mistake needs to and must be extended to all young people.