School student strike: flashback to 1985 Liverpool

Nowadays people assume that students are unaware of what is going on outside their houses, but that is not the case and has not been the case. If we look at one of the biggest demonstrations in Liverpool in 1985, we can see that 30,000 students skipped their classes and 10,000 took the streets in an attempt to prevent the Youth Training Scheme (YTS) set up from the government.

The YTS was a workplace training scheme which was aimed for 16-17-year olds on a voluntary basis. However, as it happens with apprenticeships today, many capitalist employers took advantage of those young people and exploited them by paying less than £30 per week! The government was examining scrapping the unemployment benefits for those who do not participate in this scheme, and was considering making it compulsory.

This evoked a series of reactions throughout the country because, at that time, the majority of students used to leave school at the age of 16. Thus, a national strike was held mainly by young people. The streets of Liverpool were overflowing and alongside the Liverpool Council – run by Trotskyist Militant group within the Labour Party, it had the largest participation out of all the cities in UK.

“We held off the end of dole for 16 yr old by a couple of years, as it was introduced in the Fowler Review anyway in 1988, but that half day strike affected the rest of my life!”

Contemplating past events gives us the insight of how to act in the political turmoil occurring today, and how school students should be marching again; against inequality, capitalism and austerity.

by Niko Tsili, North London school student