Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Ah yes, The David Cameron young pioneers proposal.

UK: This is the leader of the UK conservative party?

School leavers should be forced to do three or four months of community service, David Cameron, the Conservative leader, said yesterday. In a speech to voluntary group leaders, he said he did not want to bring back National Service but wanted young people to have the same feeling of achieving "something we all did together". But his proposals met resistance from student bodies who said many school leavers used the pre-university period to earn a wage so they could meet student debts. Some voluntary organisations were also critical, with one saying privately that the idea of compulsion was "barmy". At present relatively few school leavers do regular voluntary work although about one in 10 takes a gap year which involves working for cash, or travelling and usually taking on unpaid work. Last year the percentage of students deferring university courses rose from seven to 10 per cent, with "helping to conserve giant pandas in China" or "carrying out coral surveys for the Fijian National Trust" some of the more interesting options. Such trips have long been considered the preserve of the rich who can afford such travel then take on university fees. Gemma Tumelty, the secretary of the National Union of Students, said Mr Cameron's ideas would pose genuine difficulties for struggling students. "The massive cost of going to university means that many students may choose to take a gap year in order to save up money before they go. While David Cameron speaks of a universal voluntary scheme, being able to afford to work for free is not an opportunity available to all. Mr Cameron said: "If it [community service] isn't compulsory or if it isn't universal it could tend to be something else that well-off families do because it's good for their kids. "But it would not reach some of the most marginalised families and excluded children who actually would really benefit." The schemes he envisaged should not be "dull and worthy" but range from building hospitals in Rwanda to helping social services in Stepney.

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