Their future is on the line - pupils prepare for EU vote
Boris Johnson could swoop into Peterborough's schools tomorrow, but for many students their decision on how they will vote in next Thursday's EU referendum is a done deal.
Boris (it would not seem right to call him Mr Johnson) is seen as a figure who can reach out beyond the political bubble, but even he would find it hard to sway the 14 sixth formers the Peterborough Telegraph spoke to this week.
For what emerged from the revealing discussions were students who are informed, worried for their futures, not overly concerned about immigration, and extremely dismissive of politicians.
And while a vast majority want to remain inside the political and monetary union, some are very critical of how it operates, and some admit they are voting in a different direction to their parents.
At Voyager Academy, Heather Thomas (18) who will study international development with politics at university, has researched the figures for migration from inside and out of the EU, and the £116-150 million she says the UK actually sends to Brussels each week. But even she is “torn” about what to do next.
“I want to work internationally, but I want to open up connections to the rest of the world,” she says.
Samama Tahir (19) believes the EU is an “outdated system” and that “we should not have to bear countries like Greece” with its huge debts.
He adds: “I see the benefits as well. I’m undecided. There needs to be radical reform. As David Cameron says we need to renegotiate with the EU, but I do not see how we can.”
Samama does not think other EU countries will set aside their interests to help the UK, but as he will be studying business economics next year at the University of Lincoln he has mixed priorities.
Staying in the EU will give him “a lot more opportunity working in Europe,” with more job security he says, concluding: “Staying in the EU would benefit me greatly, but not the country as a whole.”
Ma’isah Rashid (19) is another considering her future job prospects, saying: “We might have to get permits to work in the EU, and once I get a degree I would like to work in the EU.
“If we come out we will be there for two years but not able to make decisions.”
Luke Woods (19) says the economic impact is the biggest factor for him wanting to remain - “The EU is our main trading partner, and if we vote to leave there is the risk of an economic crash. And we are still recovering from our last economic crash.”
Samama, though, believes the EU is restrictive on trade, and says despite the Prime Minister’s warnings, the shopping bill could come down with more importing of fruit and veg from South America.
Marcin Wypych (18) wanted to highlight freedom of movement, saying: “I know the English work force is very dependent on foreigners. We’ve just recovered from a recession and leaving may put us back in one.”
Luke, Samama and Heather wanted reassurances over the economic impact of leaving and their job prospects, but there was a general disdain over the referendum campaign with the words “deceitful” and “scaremongering” used.
Those feelings are shared by pupils at Nene Park Academy, despite a consensus that staying in the EU is beneficial.
Jamie George (18) says “I do not like the idea of the risk of change. I do not see there’s a need to leave.”
Alessia Mundo turns 18 on polling day and will get her first taste of taking part in a national vote. She worries that if we leave the EU, “prices would increase.”
Siani Dalby (18) admits she did not understand much about the EU at first, but now she confidently asserts: “I do not think we would be as stable if we were on our own.”
Rio Brown (18) states that the EU has led to some strong discussions in her household, but she too feels it is beneficial for Britain to stay in, citing concerns about isolation and the positives of working with other countries.
Jamie did not use to feel that the EU was a big issue, but now says: “We are the next generation who will have to find work.”
Siani was not going to vote, but that soon changed. “I watched the debates on telly and realised it’s quite important,” she says.
But not everyone is pleased with what they’ve heard so far. Jamie says: “It seems like they are doing it for their own gain.”
There was a widespread concern in the room about what may happen after the vote, but it was also clear that the four pupils had done their own research into the EU and largely ignored what they had heard from politicians.
The one person out of 14 who definitely wanted the UK to exit the EU was Conor Proudlock, a student at Ormiston Bushfield Academy.
Conor and his four fellow students who spoke to the PT were all 17, so just below voting age, but they too were engaged in the debate.
Conor said: “I do not see a lot of benefits that come from staying in, like security.
“I do agree it may be a better for travel in some ways to stay in, but talking from an optimistic point of view I feel like we can become a better nation in the whole if we leave.
“It’s a risk, but we are being held back by the laws of the EU.”
Other Year 12 pupils held different views, though.
Sanchez Taylor wants to stay in “mainly because of travelling between countries in Europe is easier.”
Chanel Maccoll said she could see why people would vote out for security reasons, but adds “money would definitely be affected if we vote to leave.”
Tavian Butcher-Rhodes said a debate at the school between Remain campaigner Matthew Mahabadi and Leave campaigner Stewart Jackson, the Peterborough MP, had swayed him to want to stay.
Asked if a call from Boris Johnson could change his mind, he said: “He could call and I would have more Twitter followers, but I’d still be in.”
Georgie Blackwell wants to go straight into work when she leaves school. She said: “Zero hours contracts do not work, and the EU are trying to get rid of them.”