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Letter from the editor: A vicious downward spiral

Today, there will be some extremely nerve-jangled households.

For many students and their families, knowing their A-level results will not be the conclusion of their recent stress, but the start of a whole new bunch of it.

Well over 200,000 applicants will fail to land a university place (p4). The total is higher in part because many students decided to forgo a gap year to get into uni before the dreaded 9k-a-year fees kick in.

It is also, of course, the result of successive governments propelling as many young people towards higher education as possible. Universities, mindful of previous punishments over lax grade policies, will go out of their way to avoid compromising this year — all of which suggests fraught times at the office of UCAS, the university clearing house.

The trouble is, with record levels of youth unemployment and graduates being forced to go for jobs that once would have been deemed “too lowly”, thereby diminishing further the prospects for the many without qualifications, parents have also channelled their young towards staying on in education. Put bluntly, the jobs just aren’t there right now.

So many are caught in this vicious downward spiral. I am not going to use this as an excuse for the appalling riots of last week, but it is not so hard to see why 949,000 unemployed 16- to 24-year-olds might feel like they have nothing to lose by raging against the machine. This is why, as so many of you have told us at facebook.com/i, the type of extreme sentencing we featured in yesterday’s i ultimately helps neither perpetrator nor victim. It just further stigmatises the young.

They need government to step up, not with gimmick sentencing or PR stunts in front of graffiti, but serious long-term policies aimed at creating real jobs – for those lucky graduates, and those so blithely dismissed this past week as the underclass, alike.

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