Video: gifted schoolgirl’s face tells bleak reality as scale of tuition fees sinks in

Wednesday night’s BBC 2 programme, Generation Gifted, followed six extremely bright, 13-year-old pupils from poor, disadvantaged backgrounds and the challenges they face to make the most of their abilities.

One passage of the programme featured Anne-Marie after she had returned from a visit to Cardiff University, inspired and enthused to go to university – only to discover the reality of the fees and debt she will incur if she pursues her dream.

In spite of her bravery and determination, her face as she finds out that her mother’s naive estimate of fees of ‘more than £500’ will in fact be over £9,000 – per year on a five-year course – paints an eloquent but desperately bleak picture of the reality of student debt under the Tory government:

As she tries to adjust to the huge shock, Anne-Marie demonstrates her intelligence by identifying a fundamental flaw in a system that heaps burdens on our poorest while allowing the wealthy an essentially free ride.

Observing that she can’t just go to school and be told that one day she’ll be Prime Minister, but sensing that some might indeed have such advantages, she comments:

If it’s like that then I think somebody needs to do something about the education system.



The Tories claim that tuition fees do not discourage children from poor families from going to university. But the fear of huge debts that will take decades to pay off is a major obstacle – and the reality of the debt will be a crippling psychological and financial burden to many.

Labour has promised to abolish tuition fees. The Tories responded by making a token reduction to the fees, but only Labour will end them.

Only Labour will invest in the futures and dreams of our young people, by removing the burden of tuition fees instead of crushing them under a mountain of debt.

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  1. I don’t know why these kids are being put off. They only have to repay once they earn above the threshold (currently £21,000) and will stop if they fall below it.

    “But the fear of huge debts that will take decades to pay off is a major obstacle – and the reality of the debt will be a crippling psychological and financial burden to many.”

    I was a student when fees were only £1000 a year and the threshold was £17,000 (and still is because George Osborne was a grasping little **** and refused to raise it, so older students are effectively being penalised), but I have never been concerned about the debt – not before, during or after. Not even when I get the annual statement from the Student Loans Company showing I have accrued more interest than I have paid off during the year, meaning it’s literally pointless in them taking money from my wages.

    It is the best and safest debt anyone can take on. The government is NEVER going to turn up on your doorstep demanding repayment. And if you haven’t repaid after 30 years, the debt is wiped out. That is the reality. Although I believe fees should be scrapped simply out of principle, these kids need to stop worrying and focus on their future, and people with an agenda need to stop stoking their fears in order to score some cheap political points, because it’s disgusting and underhanded.

    1. Whilst what you say, LordSin, is accurate it focuses on only one aspect and totally leaves out the wider context.

      A student loan of £9k a year represents A debt against that individual which will have an impact on their ability to obtain other loans throughout their lives. Like a mortgage for example or for transport to get to work, providing they can get a job, where public transport is being cut to the bone.

      All in a context of both wide hitting austerity to feed the ever insatiable appetites of the oxygen breathers to what they feel they are entitled to and wage rate rises at their lowest since the Napoleonic Wars.

      Now granted, there are going to be the odd fortunate individuals for whom this is not a problem. However, just because it’s all right for the odd Jack does not mean the issue disappears for everyone else. It’s called society. Perhaps those who feel that way might consider joining it one day.

      1. This is one of the biggest obstacles getting a mortgage of which it puts them back until they are in their 30’s and thus putting additional strains on their parents not being able to downsize etc

  2. And the government are selling the debt to private companies. Do you think they will not come knocking on your door? A debt is a debt.

    1. Do you have any evidence that the debts are being sold on to private companies?

      1. Every days a school day, willing to learn please promote.
        Thank for signing

      2. See my pinned tweet. Also, it is not really polite to start a petition on somebody else’s blog … 😀

        So … do another tweet with a link to your petition, and pin it yourself. If you address it to @MerryMichaelW, I will be sure to retweet it.

      1. Fox Its being checked, if it meets criteria.
        I will re-post when gets all clear.

  3. Yes we have an education system which sets child against child with ridiculous tests when continuous assessed work by trained teachers (giving feedback) is to the best way to support the development of young human beings.
    We also have a lack of democtatic control and oversight of schools.
    Higher Education has seen the rise of managers and is now a market place with caps on numbers for universities ended and some can charge more, and to help fund building work they are also cutting staff wages and now pensions – 14 day UCU strikes due soon!
    So give schools back to local councils and communities and end over-testing.
    End managerialism and the market in HE and scrap tuition fees plus democratise universities – all staff elect senates, all staff elect VCs (50% candidates must be female),VC pay capped and linked LAs, 50/50 male female ratios senior committees, make universities pay living wages and end short-term contracts, more outreach in communities – finally some UCU branches will be offering ‘Teach Out’ lectures during the strike which are lectures on radical topics and open to the whole community – we need more of this.
    We need to build a society of critical thinkers!

    1. Continuous assessment as part of grades, fine – but I think exams are still necessary if only to counter the (possibly unconscious) bias of individual teachers against or in favour of particular pupils.
      Contrary results would red flag further examination.
      In life we are required to perform under time pressure after all.
      I’m long out of touch with education practice but it’s an area that’s suffered too long from politicians’ partisan theories.

  4. As a gifted child in a poor family, I know I would never have taken on debts to go to.uni. I had a free education and a grant and that is the only way forward, as Labour policy.

    What the rest of the (middle class) ppl don’t realise is the sheer terror debt induces in the poor. Its ingrained from birth, having your family teetering on the edge of oblivion every day, pennies counted, the look on your mothers face when she has no money, and there’s no food. That’s how I grew up, and went hungry too, as a child, and I had thought we would never see poverty like that again.

    Poor people don’t “do” thousands of pounds of debt, it’s crippling to even think about it. Just engage with statistics – the millions who haven’t got £100 in the bank for a sudden outlay……how are these children supposed to breeze into £50k of debt, psychologically? Plus while we are assured that with a degree a “gifted” individual will prosper also ignores the other problem – working class women are not welcome in most of the well paid jobs. That discrimination lasts a lifetime, evey time you open your mouth, you are being judged on your accent. We really need to have a revolution to stop eejits with public school education being able to breeze through life, and get girls like this one into those jobs instead.

    1. I didn’t know much hunger but did eat a lot of bread and marge.
      I suspect Anne-Marie knows as well as anyone else like us that silver-spoons slide into top jobs like slugs on slime.
      Just enough of us do well to let the Tories claim a meritocracy exists while fools like Cameron become PM.
      We won’t all reach the same heights but that’s no justification for a ruling class to pass power on to its idiot children.

      This time we should fix that once and for all.
      No more private schools, faith schools or home schooling.
      Free, compulsory and closely-monitored education for all to whatever level of achievement the individual is capable of at any given time.
      Enlightenment comes at different ages so re-entry into education when it does.

  5. Our French family friends have two daughters who went on to University and did not leave full time education until they were 22. The cost of this education to the girls “nothing”. Only accommodation and food needed to be paid for by their parents. If Farnce can do it, why can’t the UK?

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