Speech

Deputy Prime Minister’s Q&A with young people

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A transcript of a Q&A with young people given by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Hello, again. Once again, many, many congratulations. I can see all of you grinning from ear to ear, so I know you have all had good news. Young people so often have such a bad press, and on this day as much as any other day, well done, congratulations. It is just fantastic what you achieved.

In Downing Street and in government, we want to hear from you because you have made extraordinary, amazing achievements over the last year. You were telling me about it earlier, and we want to hear what you think we can do to make more success for you and other young people, not just when you are at school, but when you then want to go from school into work. It is really tough being young and thinking about what you are going to do next. There are lots of difficult choices to make. These are difficult times.

Also, we want to hear about other things: how can you encourage other people you know who maybe are not really getting stuck into their work at school and how they can follow your example. Peer group pressure is really important as well.

We want to be a government that celebrates what you achieve and want to be positive about young people, not constantly doing down what you have achieved. We really want to hear, I really want to hear, from you about how we can work with you to do that.

This is the time when you can give me a hard time, ask me any question you like. I will try to answer them all, but also I want to hear from your own personal experience, as I have just heard about the great work you have done.

Question:

First of all, I would just like to give you this Arrival Education badge, Deputy Prime Minister. We would be absolutely honoured if you could wear that.

I will just tell you a little about Arrival Education. It is a four-year talent development programme. Essentially, we are picked from school first, so our teachers tell Arrival Education that they think this student will be good on Arrival Education. You do not volunteer, but Arrival Education looks not for the best academically smart students to begin with, but the really influential students, the students that can make a major impact in their community and also on a much larger scale.

I speak for myself, but all of us have really good grades now, but many of us did not really start off like that. It was really Arrival Education that taught us and developed our skills, not only mentally, but also in our education to take us to where we are today.

I would like to ask you, Deputy Prime Minister, if such a small programme, which gains its funding from corporate businesses, makes such a large impact – and we are all over London here – why is there not a programme like this made by a government or even on a much larger scale, because Arrival Education cannot work with everyone and cannot touch everyone? That is what makes me sad. That is what really upsets Daniel, the founder of Arrival Education.

He cannot make a difference to everyone. I do not want my little brother growing up in the community where I am from. I do not want my little brother seeing what I have seen and doing what I had to do. I want to make a better world for him, but there just is not much. We cannot really touch everyone.

There is a lot of violence in my community and, just before I was on the programme, one of my friends was stabbed in the throat and he died. That is what really upsets me because we cannot make a difference to everyone. I want to know if there is any type of government programme that will come in, or anything more that the government can do.

Deputy Prime Minister:

Firstly, it is fascinating to listen to your own experiences and I would like to hear from others too. You are right. It is incredibly frustrating when you see something that works as brilliantly as this programme has – and you are the proof of it – you wonder why we cannot do that for everybody. That is something we need to do. We need to work with Daniel and others, who, as you say, have not used taxpayers’ money. He has had people from businesses in the community, people you have been working with, who have been helping you out, paying into the programme to have the privilege, as they see it, to work with you.

I was just talking to some of the sponsors and, I have to say, talking to them is very interesting. They seem to have learned as much from you as you have learned from them, which is really great. It is a two-way street. I would like to hear about that as well. What do you feel you have been telling them that they did not know about your community, your family and your life?

What we need to do – and I will make sure happens – is that now we sit down with people like Daniel and say it seems to be great, look at this carefully and really analyse what went right, then try to make sure it is picked up in other parts of the country.

I was just talking to Daniel. He was just telling me about how it all started for him. It was that his flatmate’s brother was killed. What was amazing about this is that it was not a government initiative. It was not a minister issuing a press release. It was not something debated in the House of Commons. This was Daniel saying, ‘Right, I want to change things, because I do not think this is right’. That is often the way that great, great ideas start, from the grassroots, not from Whitehall. That is what we need to learn as well.

Who wants to tell me a little about their experience or maybe just tell me a little bit about the coaches?

Question:

My coach is Jo Carter. She is from Man, the investment banking company. The relationship between me and her is that she coaches me, guides me, and helps make major life decisions. When we go to our sessions, she talks to me about university options and, if I picked this, where it would lead me. She tries to steer me to make the best decisions and options that are going to help me have the most choices in life.

She sometimes tells me that I should probably do maths over something like art, because maths gives me more options. Really and truly, she just helps guide me and helps me go down the right track.

Deputy Prime Minister:

Are you having that kind of conversation with friends or family, or is it a different kind of conversation that you are having with her?

Question:

Before her and before the programme, I would not have necessarily had the chance to talk to anyone in that field or anyone like that. Therefore, it is good that it exposes me to that sort of person.

Deputy Prime Minister:

Does that ring true for other people? Tell me a little bit about your experience?

Question:

Yes, I have a coach that works for EasyJet. She was working for Skanska when she became involved with Arrival Education. It is just somebody who is outside the box. I think everybody I know is from our community and everyone has a kind of similar mindset, whereas she is very different, thinks about everything differently, and has a more different kind of morals. It is really good to be able to talk to her and think how she would deal with situations differently. It really helps guide me.

Deputy Prime Minister:

Have you taught her anything?

Question:

Yes, I think I have helped her see things. Obviously, she does not realise the things that I have been through, or what happens in my community, because she does not know anyone like that, so it challenges and pushes her to think differently on how she would deal with situations like that. It is really helpful.

Deputy Prime Minister:

Again, the same question: would you have had those kinds of conversations at home or in the community?

Question:

Not really. No, not at all.

Deputy Prime Minister:

No, so it is her taking a constant interest in what you are doing.

Question:

Yes, it is great, because obviously she is busy. She has a job and so on, but she takes time every month to come and meet with me and help.

Deputy Prime Minister:

How much time?

Question:

We meet once a month for a couple of hours in the evening after work.

Deputy Prime Minister:

Where? At your home?

Question:

No, we meet at a restaurant or something.

Deputy Prime Minister:

A couple of hours a month. Has that been it? A couple of hours every month.

Question:

Yes.

Deputy Prime Minister:

That is amazing. A couple of hours every month just talking through what you are. Talk me through how a couple of hours can make such a huge difference to your grades. That is just incredible.

Question:

The reason why they had this coaching programme was for us to talk to someone who is not our parents, because being an Asian myself, they always say, ‘Become an engineer, a lawyer or a doctor’, so it is nice to talk to someone else who is in something that you want to do.

I want to become a business person who works in London. I am not exactly sure what yet, but talking to someone who is a banker in a really good place allows me to see the kinds of steps I would need to take for my own decisions, instead of taking some sort of degree or going in the steps of taking subjects to become something I do not want to be. By talking to someone who I have never met before, it makes you feel a lot happier that they will not tell anyone your secrets. They have never met my parents before.

Deputy Prime Minister:

You whisper, ‘I do not want to become an engineer’. Whoops! I have just given away the secret!

Question:

So he’s never met my parents before and they have never met him either, so it is a conversation on a ‘me and him’ basis and that is what I think is really helpful.

Deputy Prime Minister:

Out of interest, how do your mum and dad feel about it?

Question:

They feel it is completely fine, because I have told them about the programme and they came to the induction day, when the whole programme started. They were really happy, because they thought that it is quite different because of everything I have been doing. I have been to quite a lot of places. I have been to Cornwall and places like that to do different projects. They think it is really beneficial for me. They are really proud.

Deputy Prime Minister:

Was anybody’s family not that keen on the programme at the beginning and has been converted, or was everybody really up for it?

Question:

For my parents, at the start of the course, when I started explaining that I wanted to be on this course, I wanted to get a coach or learn the success skills that the education system in this country can’t give us, my dad was a bit sceptical, thinking that this can’t be true, but when I went to Cornwall to do the government’s enterprise course –

Deputy Prime Minister:

What is with Cornwall? The Prime Minister goes to Cornwall and has children there. You guys go to Cornwall. It’s fantastic.

Question:

It was great, it was a really good experience, but when I started doing different things like going to sessions in some of the best businesses in the country – I’ve been to EDF, I’ve been to MAN, Investec – everyone here’s experienced a lot of different stuff, but for me, my dad is really proud of me because he knows that I’m doing something that he didn’t have or the education system can’t give me. It’s something different that loads of other students in the country won’t get, so it’s a really, really good experience for us.

Deputy Prime Minister:

Has it changed – I’m assuming it has – has it changed your hopes about what you might do in the future and what your ambition – I mean you were saying you wanted to go into business, is that something you always hoped for or is it something you’ve just started to believe in more recently?

Question:

Well, before, I didn’t really know what I wanted to be. Since you’re a child you always change your decision to do different things. So I decided that once I came here I got to see loads of different places, like you were saying, and I got to see Investec and stuff and the building just looked amazing, so I thought why not do something like this – and it was something I really enjoy doing, so that’s what changed my mind. So this experience actually made me decide that I want to work on –

Deputy Prime Minister:

So would you say – I don’t know, you tell me – would you say you developed new hopes and ambition? I guess you must feel much more proud of what you’re doing because you’re constantly telling the people you’re talking to every month, your coaches, how things are going, but does that also change the way you think about the future?

Question:

Yes, definitely. Before Success for Life I always used to have barriers, obviously because of my religion or culture or my family, but now, after seeing all these opportunities and all these hopes, I know that there are no barriers for me; I can be whatever I want to be.

Deputy Prime Minister:

Back to Shafiq’s – what you said at the beginning: how do you guys now tell your friends at school or in the classroom, how do you get other people to start dreaming these big dreams and believing that they can do better? Do you think they have to go through the whole thing themselves or can you communicate that?

Question:

Well, not really. As we all said, we’re all leaders in our own communities, so we’re really influential in our own communities and if you really change the people, like myself then it creates a ripple effect and it changes the people behind you. So if you’re able to influence one person and I go back into my community and I influence three more people and it just works like that, so it’s just – even today most of my friends say, ‘Oh, Shafiq, I want to be on that programme. How do I get on that programme?’ Even people that dropped out, unfortunately, in the foundation programme say, ‘Oh, Shafiq, how do I get back on to the programme’. The foundation programme was the beginning, yes.

Deputy Prime Minister:

Just out of interest, how many people dropped out?

Question:

Well, we started with about 20 and…

Deputy Prime Minister:

What happened?

Question:

We go to the same school, so out of about 20 only…

Deputy Prime Minister:

Twenty from your school.

Question:

Twenty from our school.

Question:

About 10 are left.

Deputy Prime Minister:

10 or two, what is it?

Question:

Much less than 10.

Deputy Prime Minister:

That’s interesting. So why did that happen?

Question:

A lot of people, maybe they didn’t believe in the programme or they didn’t believe they could change.

Deputy Prime Minister:

Now they will after the grades you got today, right?

Question:

Yes. I mean the change that everyone in this room has had is just amazing, and the fact that they maybe didn’t believe or didn’t stick to the programme, it just makes them regret it so much, so people come running back to arrival.

Deputy Prime Minister:

Look, nothing’s perfect, so one of you give me a suggestion about how it could be even better. Anybody got any – or is it just totally cool and perfect?

Question:

I think if the government got involved and helped us get more opportunities like these and expanded the programme, because Daniel’s dream is to make it international, so if it became international then so many children all around the world could get so much out of this and we could experience other cultures and grow and be able to see what it would be like to be in another place and learn more about ourselves.

Deputy Prime Minister:

So, yes, make it what you were saying at the beginning, get more people involved. Did you want to say something?

Question:

I was just going to say that to be part of this programme is a really good opportunity for us and, as Bhavia said, to make it international. There’s a real stigma in terms of what people think of teenagers, and there’s a real emphasis in terms of grades. You either get a C or above or you fail and you won’t get far in life, but it’s not like that. The skills that we learn in this programme is a lot – it’s life skills, things that – it’s nothing to do with academics, it’s things that set you aside from another – the person that’s going for the same job as you. And something Daniel said to me was that he spoke to a person in a law firm who said that one sixth of what she looks for a in a partner is academics, the other five sixths is life skills, things like a person’s personality and the skills they have that they can bring to the business.

Deputy Prime Minister:

We’re talking about going international, but do you think here and in your communities there’s a particular problem about how people talk about teenagers and young people? You said that there’s not a – I said at the beginning you don’t get a good press a lot of the time and I think one of the things we politicians have got to do is celebrate and support what you do, not constantly say that young people are a threat or a problem in our communities. But do you feel that in your communities? Do you feel that you are talked about and described by people in the community in a way that’s not always positive?

Question:

Yes. I think that we’re stereotyped a lot, because I think that sometimes people just don’t really understand the situations that we’re kind of – it’s not always a choice. It’s sometimes you just fall into it because maybe your older siblings do it or maybe that’s the only thing you know. And I think that trying to come out of it, if there was more support from the community as well, because even people like next door neighbours and stuff, they’ll see you and they’ll just think oh, you’re antisocial, or stereotype you in a certain way. But if they were more supportive to come out of the situation that you’re in, because as you grow older you can do – the world is your oyster, and I think that we’re just too stereotyped. At the end of the day I know people that maybe are on the wrong path but they’re still the smartest people I’ve ever met in my life, maybe not academically, but they are, and they could start their business and be a millionaire. It’s just the support needed in order for them to grow.

Deputy Prime Minister:

Do any of you also get involved in, I don’t know, other projects in your community that you’re getting involved with now? Yes, do you want to tell me?

Question:

In my community I’m involved in a poetry group. So we do drama at the local clock tower and it’s like a free event, so anyone can come and watch. And it’s like those are the kind of events that are like they’re positive, it takes people off the streets.

Deputy Prime Minister:

Did you do that before or is this something you’ve just done?

Question:

I was encouraged. I was kind of interested in it before, but then Arrival Education kind of gave me the mindset to pursue what I wanted to do, so I got involved with it. I made the effort. I sent an email to the poetry group and they invited me along and I’ve gained a lot from it. I’ve got a lot of confidence from it and now there’s a possibility of me getting paid for doing poetry. So because of the mindset that I’ve gained –

Deputy Prime Minister:

Reading poetry, that’s a new thing, that’s…

Question:

Yes, a new one, yes.

Deputy Prime Minister:

That’s fantastic. Someone else had their hand up about – yes, are you doing things in your community that you weren’t doing before?

Question:

Yes, sports. We do a programme that our school got us involved in. It’s called Junior Sports Leaders Awards and they give us opportunities to work in different kind of primary schools in Southwark, and we work with disabilities and other kinds of children as well to help them get more involved in sports.

Deputy Prime Minister:

What kind of facilities do you use, have you got?

Question:

We do sports events and take them out, you know, do a lot of sports with them. Also, a couple of people got chosen to go to Singapore for the Youth Olympics, and so Arrival Education has given a lot of people opportunities to do in the future and, you know, it’s given me also, because I had to give up an opportunity, because I also got offered a place to go to National Youth Theatres. Arrival Education has given a lot of people opportunities to do in the future and, you know, it’s helped a lot.

Deputy Prime Minister:

Listen, I’ve got to go, I’m afraid, but I’ve really found this genuinely inspiring and I can promise you one thing: what I’m going to do is immediately go away and we’ll work together to see how we can spread your success. But I think what you’ve done is truly, truly remarkable and you must be immensely proud of what you’ve done. I guess your families and your communities will be very proud of you as well. So look, just keep going, I think. But thanks very much for telling me all about that and, hopefully, more and more people will benefit in the way you guys have benefited. And I’ll keep this on. All right, take care then.