Friday, October 01, 2004

Education matters and late student loans

Dug up some questions from a few weeks ago, relating to education.

Mr Vaz asked about evidence of improvement among pupils and students, with a breakdown by ethnicity. Read here from They Work For You. And about steps taken to help underachieving students. Here. The first is interesting for its stats of GCSE and degree results by ethnicity. Aware that pupils of an Indian background have been consistently outperforming white pupils for years the stats on good degrees come as a little of a shock, with the achievement in GCSEs not really being reflected.

Oh, and speaking of university...

Don't Bank On It, from The Guardian. Problems in the student loans application system mean regular payments for up to 25,000 students are unlikely to be waiting for them when they start term.

Don't be fooled by the rather optimistic tone of the article. It is happening, it is a serious problem for thousands of students who have already started their university terms and thousands who are shortly about to. Students who submitted all the appropriate paperwork by the deadlines are left stranded with no money for rent, fees, food, books - a week or more in to term time.

Local Education Authorities are constantly engaged, Student Finance Direct haven't been picking up the phone for weeks. Internal computer systems aren't working, and despite triumphant letters to students encouraging them to check the progress of their claim online that doesn't work either.

Mr Vaz voted for the higher education bill and has been a consistent supporter of his party on that subject. Voting Record from the Public Whip.

The NUS website is currently mostly under construction, but is looking very handsome indeed. You can still read some press releases and articles, try Higher Education Bill "a disaster for the future of HE" says NUS.

See the NUS backed and LibDem

If you are one of those students affected - and anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that Leicester is one of the LEA's quite badly off - it is very important that you speak to whoever you can about it. Go to your student advice centre, keep ringing the LEA, talk to your landlords and banks. Keep a record of who you talked to and when. Get in touch with the relevant NUS representative at your union - maybe the officer for student welfare or academic affairs. Write to your home MP and the MP / AM / MSP who represents you at your term time uni address. This should not be allowed to slip under the radar and the only way it won't is if we make a fuss.

Added: Computer Glitch Hits Student Loan Scheme and Loan Hotline Restricted. From the Leicester Mercury. First article still insists it is only late applications who are having trouble. And yes, cutting down the hotline times and leaving worried students unable to get in contact seems an excellent way of dealing with the problem. Perhaps if they had been sent letters - any letters - at any point over the summer and not been completely ignored then there wouldn't be such a problem now.

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