I despair. For three years running I have seen students from exceptionally difficult backgrounds through to sixth-form study only to have them forced to drop out before gaining any qualifications.
This is not due to indolence or "yob culture" or any of the other brushes with which the Government is so quick to tar our young people, but because they were unlucky enough to have their 19th birthdays fall in the examination year. On turning 19, they have been told by the employment service to " make themselves available for work".
This seemingly common scenario is all the more heartbreaking given the courage shown by these students in overcoming immense problems to get this far only to have all the Government rhetoric about wanting to "raise standards and extend opportunity" revealed to be a complete sham.
Each one of them was heading for great things. Each one determined through education to rise above appalling hardship and to become valuable contributors to society. Now they may be a drain on society for the rest of their lives. All this to save the few months' income support that would have seen them through the exams.
Does no one care? These young people are our future too.
Tolworth Girls' School and Centre for Continuing Education