YOUNG people from around Sheffield met a top member of the shadow cabinet to discuss their concerns about the education system.
Teenagers from High Storrs and Birkdale Schools, Sheffield High School for Girls and an Oxford University undergraduate attended a question and answer session with Labour’s education spokesman Andy Burnham.
The event was organised by Sheffield Youth Parliament member Harrison Carter.
Opening the discussion, held at Thompson’s Solicitors in Furnival Square, Mr Burnham spoke of his concern that access to education is becoming too much related to income. He said: “Enrolling in education is becoming like a transaction, with increased fees and abolition of EMA.”
David Butler, aged 18, from Walkley, studying politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford, asked: “You took the lead on reforming access to internships when you stood for Labour leadership. What’s the party doing to ensure this change comes in?”
Mr Burnham said: “We should legislate so there is open access. Companies could even be made to advertise them by law.”
Rich Parry, 18, of Sharrow, a Birkdale sixth former, said: “I’m concerned about Education Secretary Michael Gove’s plans for an English Baccalaureate focusing on academic subjects - what about groups such as children with special needs who could be left out?”
Mr Burnham replied that while “English and maths should be a priority” he believed subjects for less academic pupils should also be a priority. And Amaka Uchegbu, 16, of Sheffield High School for Girls, challenged him about business leaders’ concerns that not enough school-leavers were fit for work.
“While being fit for work is important, it’s also about giving life skills to young people,” Mr Burnham said.