Page last updated at 06:54 GMT, Thursday, 12 August 2004 07:54 UK

Me and my education

The debate about how best to educate young people in 21st century Britain rages continually.

While the political discussions, plans and reviews go on, it is easy to forget there are thousands of children who face a daily battle just to get an education.

Discrimination, abuse, neglect, trauma, homelessness, peer pressure, you name it - for many teenagers there are bigger things happening in their lives than school.

BBC News Online's Paula Dear talked to five such young people about their experiences of education.

CHANTELLE, 15, IRISH TRAVELLER

Anonymous teenager

When the bullying gets on top of her Chantelle feels like packing in school altogether.

But, with the support of her family, she is determined to make it to her exams next year.

But, she says, staying on means enduring bullying and harassment, indifference from her teachers, and pressures from within the travelling community.

CHRIS, 20, IN PRISON

Chris, Onley YOI

At 20 Chris is already serving his second prison sentence.

He is now keen to learn so he can break the cycle of crime he has been in since starting secondary school.

"As you get older you've got to realise you're just throwing everything away, haven't you?" Chris tells BBC News Online.

KAIMO, 18, HOMELESS

Kaimo, homeless

Kaimo is only 18 but she has already been homeless for three years.

She left home at 15 because of family problems, and spent more than a year trying to keep up her schooling while sleeping on her aunt's sofa.

The A-level student now lives in a homeless hostel in central London and survives on benefits.

CAROLINE, 13, IN FOSTER CARE

Anonymous teenager

Caroline suffered years of physical and mental abuse, rejection and instability before being taken into foster care.

She and her brother missed about two years of school because their mum and her boyfriends neglected to send them.

Now happily settled with her long-term foster family, she is trying to catch up on the years she lost.

TANYA, 15, TEENAGE MUM

Charlene Allen

Tanya wasn't good at attending school even before she became pregnant at 13.

Now mum to 13-month-old Tristan, she is taking exams at a special school for pregnant teenagers and young mothers.

"It's better than school, it's more comfy - you get more attention" she says.



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