Supreme Court to hear case this week which will decide educational future of thousands

Young people whose chances of going to university hang on the result of the judges’ ruling, are to demonstrate outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday 24 June 2015.
23 Jun 2015

Let us Learn!

Just for Kids Law has been granted permission to provide evidence of the impact of student finance restrictions on lawfully resident, British-educated students, who do not yet have citizenship.

A case which will determine whether hundreds of students who achieve success in their A-level results this August are able to take up university places comes before the Supreme Court tomorrow.

The Supreme Court judges will be asked to rule on whether a 2011 change to the government’s student loan scheme is discriminatory and amounts to a denial of university education. Since 2012, when the change came into effect, children who are lawfully resident in the UK, having ‘discretionary’ or ‘limited’ leave to remain, are no longer eligible for student loans.

The change means young people who have been here most of their lives and attended British schools, are now treated as overseas students when it comes to university education. They are now no longer eligible for student loans, and universities can charge them international fees, which are several times higher than those paid by home students. The regulation amendment takes no account of the fact that many will come from families which work and pay tax here.

The Let us Learn campaign – which was set up by Just for Kids Law in 2013 – works directly with dozens of ambitious young people who have been blocked from taking up their university places. A group of them will be staging a peaceful protest outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday to highlight the importance of the case to their futures.

Among those who plan to join Wednesday’s protest are:

  • Emmanuel (see below), who attended the flagship academy school Mossbourne in Hackney, and achieved three A-levels at grade A. He has been unable to take up a place to study chemistry at Imperial College.
  • Mistura, 18, who finished taking her A-level exams last week, and is predicted to get A*A*A. She has had offers from three Russell Group universities to do chemical engineering, but has no access to finance to enable her to take up her place. Chemical engineering is an area where black women are significantly under represented, and Mistura would be the first member of her family to go to university.
  • Dami who has three A-levels, including A in psychology, and has been unable to take up her offered place at Royal Holloway University of London, to study criminology and sociology. Dami wants to work in youth justice, but thinks this will be impossible without a degree, and is currently working in a sportswear shop. Many of her peers are graduating this year and she feels left behind.

Let Us Learn estimates that around 600 young people a year have been affected since the rule change came into effect in 2012.

Just for Kids Law’s intervention in the case is being led by in-house education solicitor Rachel Knowles, who says:

‘Let us Learn has been contacted by many, many young people who have lived here most of their lives, and whose futures are clearly in the UK. They have been through our primary schools, secondary schools and sixth forms. They have worked hard, got good grades and are a credit to the British education system. It cannot be right that when they want to go to university, we suddenly say to them that they are no different from someone who has never set foot in the UK and just wants to come here to study. Since 2012, they have been denied access to student loans and are charged overseas rates by universities, which can be up to £26,000 a year – way beyond the reach of most ordinary families. It makes no sense to let so much aspiration and ambition go to waste, and we call on the government to let these young people fulfill their potential.’

Emmanuel, 20, a Let us Learn campaigner, who will be attending Wednesday’s protest says:

‘The government is always saying we need to invest in Britain and make Britain great again, and they’re not giving the opportunity to those who actually want to make that difference. Everyone involved in Let us Learn has massive ambitions, and they’re being held back by legislation which to me makes no sense. That needs to change.’

Emmanuel’s former head teacher, Peter Hughes from Mossbourne Academy, is backing Just for Kids Law’s intervention in the Supreme Court case. In written evidence to be put before the Supreme Court, he says:

‘We teach every pupil that if they work hard they can achieve their goals and choose to go university, if they would like. However it has been devastating to learn that, for a number of our pupils, this is simply not the case, because they cannot access student finance due to not having indefinite leave to remain or [British] citizenship.’

The National Union of Teachers and leading business figures have also added their voices to calls for reform in this area (see below).

Notes for editors

  1. In 2011, the criteria for student finance were changed by the Education (Student Fees, Award and Support (Amendment) Regulations 2011; now been superseded by the Education (Student Support) Regulations 2011. The change took effect from 2012 onwards.
  2. Prior to 2011, students with discretionary or limited leave to remain were eligible for student loans: the Education Student Support Regulations 2009 provided that a ‘person with leave to enter or remain’ was eligible. Case law (R (Arogundade) v SSBIS [2012] EWHC 2502 (Admin)) then clarified that people with DLR and LLR fell within that definition.
  3. The case of ‘T’ is listed at the Supreme Court for 24 June 2015. Just for Kids Law is respecting the request of the appellant that her name not be used for publicity purposes. The solicitor in the case is Paul Heron of Public Interest Lawyers.
  4. Just for Kids Law has been granted permission to intervene in the case. The intervention is being led by our education solicitor Rachel Knowles, with pro bono support from barristers at Matrix Chambers: David Wolfe QC, Sarah Hannett, Nick Armstrong and Karon Monaghan QC.
  5. Our evidence to the court includes witness statements from 26 young people we work with directly, who have been blocked from attending university because of lack of access to student finance, following the 2011 amendment.
  6. Our evidence also includes a detailed statement from Mossbourne Academy head teacher Peter Hughes. Mossbourne, based in Hackney, has been described by former education minister Lord Adonis as: ‘The flagship of the national academy movement.’ It is within the top 1 per cent of schools in the country, and is on the site of Hackney Downs School, which was once described as the worst school in Britain.
  7. In Peter Hughes’ statement to the court, he says: ‘All of our students and staff have worked hard to create the high achieving school community that we have at Mossbourne. We have worked hard to achieve and exceed the targets set by the government: to turn around a school, to create positive change in the community by encourage pupils, in particular those from BME backgrounds (and boys in particular), to become role models for the community. We teach every pupil that if they work hard, they can achieve their goals and choose to go to university, if they would like. However, it has been devastating to learn that, for a number of our pupils, this is simply not the case, because they cannot access student finance due to not having indefinite leave to remain or citizenship.’ (10) ‘We urge the Government to resolve this issue as a matter of urgency in the interests of fairness and social cohesion. It is a clear block on social mobility.'
  8. The National Union of Teachers has expressed concern about the impact of the 2011 change on schools and social cohesion. Its general secretary Christine Blower wrote a letter to the Independent saying: ‘It cannot be right that young people, who have lived in this country lawfully and been educated here most of their lives, are being denied a university education and the chance to better themselves. They have done everything demanded of them, by studying hard at school and getting good qualifications, only to be denied a place at university through no fault of their own.
  9. According to figures from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills the economic benefit of a degree is significant. BIS estimates that a working graduate male pays £264,000 more in tax over his entire career, than a working male non-graduate; for women, the difference is even greater: a working female graduate pays £318,000 more tax during her career than a working non-graduate woman.
  10. In its evidence to the Supreme Court, the government claims the cost of allowing students with DLR and LLR to access student loans would be prohibitively expensive and estimates that around 2,400 young people a year would be affected. Just for Kids Law’s research, based on FOI requests, suggests this is a considerable over estimate, and puts the figure at around 500-600 a year. However, even an additional 2,400 loans a year is small compared with the increase in student loans that will be offered following chancellor George Osborne’s decision in the 2013 Autumn Statement to lift the cap on overall numbers of students. This is expected to create an extra 60,000 places a year for students who will be able to apply for student loans.
  11. Just for Kids Law is an award-winning charity which supports children and young people in difficulty.
  12. Let us Learn is a young person-led campaign, supported by Just for Kids Law, and was inspired by the United We Dream youth led movement in the USA. (…) It was set up in 2013 by former head girl Chrisann Jarrett, after she found she was unable to take up a place at the London School of Economics to study law, because she could not access student finance.
  13. Education is a devolved power and England is the only country in the UK where students with DLR and ILR are entirely ruled out from receiving student loans.
  14. Baroness Martha Lane Fox, chancellor of the Open University, Founder of and patron of Just for Kids Law says: ‘We should be helping talented young people get into university not creating insurmountable barriers. The UK needs to find a million jobs in the tech sector by 2020. Allowing these young people to achieve their dreams also benefits the UK economy –it’s a win, win situation.’