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Voices of youth

A teenager's perspective on opportunities and experiences in Peterborough.

As part of the Future Workshop Programme, we have been working on a youth-focused event to bring the voices of the next generation to the fore in discussions about our future communities and society.

As part of this, we have asked several young people from Peterborough and Huntingdon to contribute blogs on key themes. The first explored the origins of Multi-Academy Trusts.

This latest piece is penned by Tomiwa Alabi, a student and member of Peterborough Youth Council, about his experience of education as a student in the city:


“Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equaliser of the conditions of men” (and women); Horace Mann 1848. When Mann made these statements, I was not permitted to read, or to write. And any attempts whatsoever to do so, was punishable by death. So then, what is education? Freedom, liberty? Is modern education even addressing social inequities?

This short essay will explore what education means, and the comparisons of Peterborough with London.

Now, it is fitting that I start ‘at the beginning’ as one might say. So to introduce, I am a British teenager; a young adult to be precise. Whilst I am ‘British’, I am of Afro-Caribbean descent; as a Nigerian, hence my views on education in the British system may differ from convention. So I wish to provide an insight into education within the U.K from an individual viewpoint.

I will briefly touch on three things: opportunities, experiences and outcomes.

Opportunities. Well, I spent most of my life growing up in the Barnet region; North-West London, and despite expectations of vast differences, I can say that opportunities do not differ greatly in regards to education. Whilst other topics such as employment, social activities will likely result in differences, educational opportunities are mostly similar. This may be due to the fact that London and Peterborough are both located in the U.K. South East, hence educational opportunities tend to be provided to somewhat similar degrees.

However, when one considers educational opportunities beyond the classroom experience, there is a contrast. In Metropolitan cities such as London or Birmingham, there are more opportunities to engage in: University visits, company visits during secondary school and talks related to academic interests hosted by social action groups. These opportunities tend not to be present as much in Peterborough simply due to the smaller population size. With only around 250,000 Peterburgians compared to London's staggering 10 million, it comes to no surprise that London will inherit more non-classroom educational resources and opportunities than Peterborough.

My simple solution to address this would be to encourage local schools who may be under ‘Trusts’ to organise shared social projects which can be organised by charity-style organisations. These social projects can use school venues on evenings and weekends to host talks and events, whilst advertising these opportunities during school assemblies. Whilst this is not a concrete solution, it can be a foundation for further ideas and initiatives within Peterborough.

Now to explore experiences. I can say that for the most part, regardless of wherever you go in the UK, experiences as a Black student have major similarities, though variations occur. Whether it is primary, secondary or sixth form. London or Peterborough. The ‘issue’ of race remains. Now these issues take a multitude of forms, whether through: explicit verbal or physical attacks, discrimination of hair or other cultural affiliations. Despite this, the most prominent issue is the ‘discipline gap’.

Now, you can probably tell what this topic explores - the differences in exclusion rates and general education discipline measures between ethnic groups. From experience, schools within Peterborough and London address these issues in a similar manner. Both of these locations have a clear visual and supporting statistical difference when it comes to addressing behavioural misconduct within education from a White student as regards to an Afro-Caribbean student.


As explored, Peterborough has enormous potential when it comes to expanding educational opportunities. All that is required is collective unison and organisation between local governments, schools and businesses. Whilst experiences; from a personal perspective, have been fairly positive, racial events do undeniably occur and create uncomfortable and painful experiences for those of specific communities.

So for me, I think it is vital in every situation to consider the views and experiences of everybody, since an opportunity for some people may not provide the same results for others. As the late Sir Frederick Douglass said: ‘what to the Slave, is the Fourth of July’.


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