With so many young people missing out on formal education in school, millions of children who were already struggling are at risk of being abandoned by the education system. It has already been acknowledged that the most disadvantaged pupils will suffer the most during the COVID-19 pandemic and the combination of a one-lane system and home schooling will further damage the life chances and opportunities of the people the system was designed to protect.
Formal education, as it stands, offers little flexibility or alternatives to young people who feel a lack of connection, incentive and hope for the future. Put bluntly, we offer a system which tells young people, “Get in lane, or get out with nothing.”
A 14 year old boy, who has shown no engagement academically, who fails to respond to the teaching methods available, will inevitably be disruptive in class. Behavioural issues escalate to exclusion from school, possibly being sent to a different school, where the same system will repeat the failings of the first. If there is a lack of support at home, this leads to vulnerable young people being exposed to exploitation of gangs and a life lost to criminality. In many cases a life lost. The lucky ones will have no qualifications, no real chance of employment and more devastatingly, no hope.
We need to build more lanes to a better future. If all we offer is a “Fit in or drop out” form of education, society will suffer the consequences.