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Prospect of good jobs in the balance

Dreams of dance school shattered and being made redundant from part-time work - young people, too, have fallen victim to the recession

Dreams of dance school shattered and being made redundant from part-time work - young people, too, have fallen victim to the recession

The future was looking bleak, school pupils agreed this week.

During a special schools debate at the Scottish Trades Union Congress in Perth, pupils from four secondaries in the area reported that their chances of pursuing the university or college courses they wanted were dwindling, as family budgets tightened. And, thanks to increasing unemployment, finding a job was also "a huge concern", they said.

The pupils, who are in S3 and S4, were highly critical of the irresponsible lending that led to the crisis in which they felt all that had to be done to secure a mortgage, was "breathe".

Some reported they had already been hit by the recession. One pupil told the audience of trade unionists he had recently been made redundant from a part-time job. Now an educational trip to Strasbourg was hanging in the balance, he said.

The pupils from the four secondaries - Perth High, Perth Academy and St Columba's High in the city and Kinross High - were speaking in an trades union-sponsored debate about the recession, young people and health and the IsraelPalestine conflict.

The "Schools out for Congress" debate is now a regular feature at the STUC, enabling local secondaries and colleges to debate current issues relevant to the trade union movement and young people.

The recession, said Perth High pupil Jonathan Ainslie, was the result of people "living beyond their means". Mortgages had been agreed without regard for the income of buyers, he said: "If you could breathe, they gave you a loan."

All political parties were guilty of standing by and doing nothing, Jonathan continued. He called for the money currently being injected into the economy by the Government to bypass the banks and go straight to the workers who, he argued, needed it most.

Jonathan had already been a victim of the recession, it transpired. He had a part-time job as a learning assistant at a Kumon maths and English evening class. However, because families were tightening their belts, numbers fell and his position was no longer viable. "I was made redundant," he said.

Adults tended to think they were the only ones suffering, but young people were also being hit, said S5 Kinross High pupil Kirsty Paterson-Hunter. "Those working will feel it more, but everybody is affected - if not personally, then because their parents or guardians are," she said.

Dance school was 15-year-old Megin Elrick's dream, but her family could no longer afford the Pounds 3,000 annual fees, said the Perth Academy pupil.

Gregor Thomson, also 15 and attending Perth Academy, had ambitions to enter law, but now felt he might have to look abroad for "steady work".

Jonathan also had thoughts of studying law but, like Gregor, had begun to question job security. "I was enthusiastic until recently, because I was labouring under the illusion that well-paid jobs were safer than unskilled ones," he said.

The youngsters admitted, however, that, while the current situation was worrying, they were more preoccupied by their exams. "We are trying to get the best grades, to get into the best universities and, hopefully, give ourselves the best chance of getting jobs," said Kirsty.

- The pupils' point that the recession is hitting young people was further reinforced by the news this week that the number of part-time jobs for students advertised through Edinburgh University's career advice service had dropped by 20 per cent.

Alan Ramsay, the university's student leader, said for the first time in a generation students were struggling to get part-time work. He warned this would force some students out of higher education, particularly those from poorer back-grounds, and called on the Government to increase the level of student support to at least Pounds 7,000 a year.

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