Joint Committee On Human Rights Nineteenth Report

Appendix 3: Memorandum from Jack Lewars, National Student Support Officer of the English Secondary Students' Association, dated 25 March 2008

I write on behalf of the English Secondary Students' Association to voice the concern of ESSA and its members regarding the Education and Skills Bill. ESSA is the representative body for students in secondary education, promoting the voice of its members and other secondary students across the country.

ESSA feels that the Bill is an infringement of the human rights of students, on the following counts.

Firstly, ESSA believes that young people were not adequately consulted on the Bill, as required under Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The DCSF Consultation of June 2007 claims to take into account 1000 responses from young people. However, on closer examination it appears that 805 of these responses were delivered via 14 'group responses'. This means that, on average, each group response was used to represent the views of over fifty young people. ESSA does not believe that it is possible to do justice to the variety of views that fifty young people will hold in one general response, and feels that this level of generalisation is unacceptable.

Secondly, ESSA believes that the views of young people were not given 'due weight' in decisions regarding the proposal; again a requirement of Article 12. The DCSF consultation shows that 47% of young people were against the proposal, with 36% in agreement and 17% unsure. ESSA's own consultation work has returned similar statistics (46% against, 32% in favour) and we feel that the views of students are being completely ignored, let alone given 'due weight'.

Finally, ESSA feels that the duty to stay in education or training beyond 16 is a retrogressive move. This duty removes yet another opportunity for students to exercise the right to choose for themselves, and is a statement that young people (read young adults) of 16 years of age are unable to make decisions about their future for themselves. In a wider sense, the Bill represents a disregard for students' views on behalf of decision-makers, and thus implies that these views are worthless. In the long run, this Bill will do nothing to encourage students to enact their right to influence decisions affecting them.

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