Alison Bennett's Monday Mail - Year 11, Tbilisi and contaminated blood

20 May 2024

Welcome to my Monday Mail for 20 May 2024, as I share a few of the things I've been doing and thinking about this past week, including Year 11 students, demonstrations in Georgia and the contaminated blood scandal.

On Tuesday I helped the local Cubs with their beach clean at Ovingdean
On Tuesday I helped the local Cubs with their beach clean at Ovingdean

Why Year 11s are in crisis: ‘We’re seeing the fallout of lockdown’

In last week’s email I talked about how the pandemic has changed what life and learning is like for secondary school students. As exam season is now underway, inews published a devastating article about the young people who are sitting GCSEs this year. The article is behind a paywall, so if you can’t access it, I will share this quote:

“Experts say the cohort of students about to sit their GCSEs is facing a crisis, with many feeling not only anxious but also apathetic and even ‘nihilistic’.

“Recent research by the Nuffield Foundation predicted GCSE results in key subjects – which have fallen for two years running in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – will continue to worsen until 2030, a ‘damaging legacy’ from Covid school closures.”

What can be done?

Last week I mentioned the changes that the government needs to make to policy to support young people. This is key, but locally there are organisations trying to make a difference.

On Monday I spent some time at Downlands Community School in Hassocks where Dare 2 Dream is working with Year 10 students, local employers and the district council to help young people change the way they think about their future. A number of secondary schools across Mid Sussex are also involved.

Then on Saturday I popped into the Bentswood Hub, and I learnt about Just for Girls, a programme that is using art as a medium to improve wellness for 12-15 year old girls.

Both initiatives are addressing a real need amongst our young people, but, what is really needed is for the government to be properly investing in our children’s future.

Dispatches from Tbilisi - Is Putin coming for Georgia?

There has been a bubbling awareness in my mind recently over the huge demonstrations in Tbilisi, Georgia. The protesters are really young - typically in their teens and early twenties, and they are fighting the Georgian government’s proposals for a law which would force non-governmental groups and media to register as "organisations serving the interest of a foreign power" if more than 20% of their funding comes from overseas. This is something that Russia brought in back in 2012 and has been used to crack down on critics of the Kremlin. The protestors are concerned that if the same happens in Georgia, then this will damage the country’s path to EU membership and increase Russian influence in Tbilisi.

If you are interested in learning more, then Lewis Goodall’s Newsagents episode from Georgia is worth a listen.

What’s coming up this week - compensation for contaminated blood scandal victims to be announced

This week Jeremy Hunt will announce the final compensation for the victims of the contaminated blood scandal. The number of victims - 33,000 - is staggering as this clip sets out, and the size of the compensation package is thought to be at least £10 billion. In the numbers it’s easy to forget the individual stories of suffering and loss, and the decades long fight that has been fought to get justice. This article about one couple puts a human face to the story.

Best wishes,

Cllr Alison Bennett
Prospective Parliamentary Candidate
Mid Sussex Liberal Democrats

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