Although finally young Londoners were awarded the grades they deserve, the stress caused by the process has been profound, on top of the mental health toll of lockdown. How are your programmes such as Thrive LDN and the Young Londoners Fund supporting young people following the exam results fiasco?
Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London): Firstly, I want to congratulate students from across the capital who got their results this summer for their hard work and achievement in the worst possible circumstances. This fiasco could have been completely avoided if the Government had taken action months ago. They have failed our young people, their families, and teachers. COVID-19 has impacted the lives of our young people like nothing we have seen in a generation. You are right: we need to support them now more than ever.
Our Young Londoners Fund has already supported over 50,000 young people. This summer, I have invested a further £2.1 million to help 15,000 more young Londoners over the next six months to boost their skills and improve their mental health. This includes projects like that delivered by Spiral Skills in Lambeth, which is improving mentoring and employer-based workshops for students leaving year 11, who missed the end of school and had little support with their transition to college.
As schools and colleges return, we anticipate an increase in student experiencing mental and emotional distress. Funded by the Young Londoners Fund, Thrive LDN’s Youth Mental Health First Aid Programme aims to have one trained mental health first aider in every state-funded school and college in London. It enables teachers and youth workers to develop knowledge, skills and confidence to have conversations about mental health and to spot the signs of poor mental health. We have also worked with the Healthy London Partnership to update the Mental Health in Schools Toolkit, which supports children with their emotional wellbeing and mental health. This, together with Thrive LDN and the Good Thinking digital mental health and wellbeing service, signpost teachers, youth workers, parents and students to a wide range of online and voluntary sector support, as well as clinical resources.
Jennette Arnold OBE AM: Can I say thank you, Mr Mayor, for that comprehensive answer and the work that you are committed to? We know education and that educational experience is just so important. I have said it before, education is our passport to us achieving all our potential. It is not just employability; it is about our sense of citizenship and sense of belonging.
My follow-up question to you, Mr Mayor. I would like to seek your assurance that a key aim of your historic - and I say ‘historic’ because history is about the moment as well - Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm will be recommendations as to how we can redress the incomplete picture of London’s BAME histories and contribution to this city and Britain’s economic, intellectual, artistic and scientific history. This approach, unlike the allegations levelled against you earlier today by another Assembly Member, is not, and I repeat, not about rewriting history or heritage, but about righting the lies and the racism that is embedded in much of the stories and images of our heritage and cultural life. I seek this assurance from you, Mayor, and I would like your word on it. Thank you very much.
Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London): Could I thank the Assembly Member for her question? She will know, as well as I do, that for many young Londoners they lack ambition and aspiration because they feel that people like them cannot be successful, that they cannot reach the top jobs, they cannot do amazing things. We have to increase aspiration and ambition. The Assembly Member will be aware of the phrase “you have to see it to be it”. Often, when you walk around our city, you cannot see people like Jennette Arnold [OBE AM] reflected in murals, in statues, in the names of squares, in the names of streets. You can understand why young people do not aspire to be great Britons, although we know many great Britons have been BAME.
What we are doing, Assembly Member Arnold, is making sure, in particular, our teachers have the tools they need feasibly put on their curriculum. We are also helping more of the junior and middle BAME teachers aspiring to be leaders and head teachers in their schools. It is so important in relation to education. Also, the Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm will be looking at the contribution made by women, by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, plus (LGBTQ+) community, by those who are disabled, by those from the BAME community, and many others who are not reflected in the public realm. It is for others to explain why they feel so threatened by our public realm reflecting the contribution made by all of us.
Can I just say this, Chair, as somebody who is the father of two daughters? Assembly Member Arnold is a role model to my daughters and I am really proud to call her a friend and a colleague. She is as patriotic as anybody else in this Chamber, who may be from a different party, a different gender, or a different race.
Jennette Arnold OBE AM: Thank you so much. I shall just leave by saying I am a proud, life-long patron of the women’s section of City Hall British Legion Branch. As an aside, Mr Mayor, I am always available for sit-ins. Thank you very much.