Rescue Our Schools

Unfortunately education issues are not confined to the UK. We are in contact with a wonderful group of parents in Osaka, Japan who are also fighting against the marketisation of their children’s education. This is their message to us:

I know many parents were raising their concerns about teachers overworking under limited resources in some countries like the UK, New Zealand and etc. Osaka City last year announced that the teachers (who are also known for being overworked) in public schools shall be evaluated by the kids exam results, also the school budgets would reflect this. Many parents were unaware of the news here and this is how we try to raise awareness- using humor which Osaka is famous for.

Madeleine wins award for education campaigning

We are thrilled that Rescue Our Schools’ co-founder, Madeleine Holt, has won the 2019 Fred and Anne Jarvis Award for education campaigning, given by the National Education Union. Madeleine helped set up RoS three years ago and was active in creating the More than A Score alliance for alternatives to high stakes tests in primary schools. Last week Jeremy Corbyn announced that a Labour government will abolish SATs and the government’s proposed baseline testing of four-year-olds.
In her acceptance speech at the NEU conference in Liverpool, Madeleine urged Labour to join the Lib Dems and Green party in expanding their education vision to include secondary schools – in particular the huge stress students now face doing the new GCSES, which Michael Gove deliberately made harder. You can watch her speech or read it below:

First of all, thank you to Amanda Martin and her Portsmouth colleagues for nominating me for this award. I am absolutely delighted to receive it.

I would also like to thank all my Rescue Our Schools colleagues, who together keep it going.

So I was going to use this moment to urge Labour to come out with some concrete education policies. And then Jeremy Corbyn announces he is going to get rid of SATS!

Since Rescue Our Schools is part of the brilliant More than a Score along with the NEU – and for which I make campaign films – I am obviously delighted about what he said. But I guess my message now is: keep it up! And please extend your vision to secondary education.

Because since we set up Rescue Our Schools three years we have become particularly concerned about the mental health of students enduring the new GCSES – something which is reflected in the NEU survey today.

One of my children is doing these exams this year. And, as many of you know, they are no longer a General Certificate of Education. Too many students are excluded from showing what they are capable of. It’s back to O levels – except there’s no CSEs, there’s just a collection of fails for the kids who don’t make the grade. As my son put it, “I can get through this, but some can’t, and that’s not right.”

As we all know, our education system is institutionally insensitive to anyone who is not academic, compliant and tough enough to survive 25 GCSE exams over a month. Add in the funding cuts, and this government has created a hostile environment for learning.

But we know that changing the system takes perhaps 5 to 6 years, and staff are in no mood for more upheaveal. Yet in that time we will see up to 3 million teenagers turned off learning. That’s too many.

So this is the conumdrum: how can we make GCSEs in particular less stressful in the short term? We could get rid of the ebacc and Progress 8. We could tell students that exams at 18 matter more. We would love to work with the NEU and others on how to help our teenagers get through this with their mental health intact. And let’s have a proper inquiry into the effect of high stakes exams on students’ well being.

But we all know there’s a bigger battle to fight – our education system is not fit for purpose. In fact my daughter told me the other day that SCHOOL stands for Six Cruel Hours Of Our Lives – something that for once I was grateful she had got off the internet rather than it being a personal comment on her education.

It was enlightening to see the Tory MP Robert Halfon call the other day for GCSEs to be scrapped. All credit to the NEU for backing this. But after Jeremy Corybn’s properly inspiring speech, let’s hope the principles he laid out – that we need to prepare children for life, not just for tests – will very soon embrace education as a whole. How about a national conversation on the purpose of education, just like in New Zealand?

Because parents are voters – there’s 13.8 million of them in England alone. And there’s votes in saying we need a system that puts ALL students’ mental health first and celebrates ALL kinds of talents. Because parents know, through basic common sense, that exam factories do not amount to an education. So, Jeremy, keep up the barnstorming announcements. Bring it on!



Has your school shortened the school week?

A prominent national newspaper would like to speak as soon as possible to any teachers and parents who have been affected by a shorter school week due to cuts.

Please email us at and we can pass on your details.

We invite you to an event to celebrate the wonderful variety of pedagogies. Organised by the National Education Union and kindly hosted by the Institiute of Education, University College London, this one day event will include speakers and workshops that examine teaching and learning in all its splendour! Sessions include … Early Years and primary strand.
Where: 20 Bedford Way, London, WC1H 0AL, United Kingdom
When: Sat, Mar 30, 2019 at 10:00 AM

Follow this link to Eventbrite and book your ticket.

Rescue Our Schools writer, Charlotte Wolf was interviewed on the Victoria Derbyshire show this morning, opening up the debate on whether GCSEs should be scrapped and what education is actually for?

Watch here from 43:00

Education Uncovered is a website, now just over a year old, which aims to do just that.

Set up, edited and largely written by me, Warwick Mansell, an experienced education journalist, it aims to scrutinise decision-making power at all levels of control over our schools.

I founded it because of the large number of tip-offs that were coming my way about issues that I felt needed public scrutiny, especially around developments in the government’s favoured academies sector, but which were not always finding a home in the national media.

I wanted to explore and feature as many as I could of the campaigns arising out of communities wanting a greater say in decisions about their schools, seeking to analyse each one’s significance to national policymaking, and to do my bit to bring about a greater sense of decision-makers having to account for those choices.

The site’s investigative strands have featured not just the academies and free schools policies, including sometimes sky-high leadership pay, but the detail of Ofsted’s operations, ministers and their often questionable relationship with reality, and bad education policy in general.

Education Uncovered is a subscription-only site, offered at a basic rate of £6.25 for three months (£25 a year), which works out at just 7p per day. For £12.50 for three months (£50 a year), you offer more support for the site and also get weekly emails from me. By backing it, you will be supporting independent, challenging journalism that I hope is making a unique contribution to the education news landscape.

As someone said recently after reading one of the site’s exclusives: “I am so happy: I had to read the piece three times, I was so glad to have seen it appeared.” Another said: “I cannot thank you enough for your interest and coverage.”

Go to to take a look.

PS: The site is also having a first-birthday conference in central London on the afternoon of Friday, December 14th, open to subscribers only. It is shaping up to being an interesting event. If you subscribe, I will send details.

Rescue Our Schools kindly agreed to let me write this message on this page, to promote the website and conference.

When Philip Hammond stood up to deliver his budget speech on Monday, we – along with teachers, parents, headteachers, unions, other campaign groups and many MPs – had reasonable expectations. Knowing that campaigners across the country have highlighted very effectively the impact of the 8% cuts to school budgets, we expected at the least an acknowledgement of the difficulties schools are facing. Instead, we were expected to be gratified by the announcement that schools could have a “little extra” to buy a new computer. Even though many schools have long since had to reduce the number of teaching assistants they can employ to help children use that computer.

Schools are increasingly reliant on parent teacher associations for funds. Traditionally these associations have funded additional equipment and trips which extend and enrich our children’s experience of school. But parent associations are now being asked to provide the funds for basic equipment – like paper!

Parent school associations depend on support from local parents. And therefore on the depth of those parents’ pockets. So by asking parents to pay for school essentials, it’s quite likely that schools will not only continue to suffer, but that educational inequality will rise further.

We need to continue highlighting the struggle in our schools to provide the essentials – like teaching assistants, support for children with special educational needs, and repairs to buildings. Please keep us informed about what your local PTA/HSA is being asked to pay for, so we can add strength to the campaign.

Message us on FB, comment below, or email us on

Our children deserve better. #LittleExtras

We are on LBC again this morning talking about school uniforms

Madeleine Holt talks to Nick Ferrari this morning about school uniforms after this article in The Mirror sparks debate.  Read the article here

What do you think? Does your school’s choice of uniform have any bearing on your children’s schooling?

Let us know on social media or email us

Very interesting points about school funding that all parents should know

• Analysis of the actual school funding allocations from 2015/16 to 2018/19 shows that the real terms cuts are probably even worse than the £2.5bn that were originally estimated – as school costs have actually turned out to have been higher than the NAO originally anticipated. What we do know is that schools in England received over £2.5bn less in real terms this year than the start of the 2015/16.

• There are 66,000 more kids in state schools in England this year compared to last, yet compared to last year there are 10,800 fewer staff in our school – including over 5,000 fewer teachers, over 2,500 fewer teaching assistants and over 2,000 fewer support staff.

• And a major survey by the National Governors Association this month shows that “three-quarters of governors believe financial pressures will harm the quality of education and nearly a third of schools were in the red”.

All this means, we’re still seeing:

• Heads increasingly struggling to balance budgets

• Cuts to staffing

• Increasing difficulties matching funding to special education needs and vulnerable pupils

• Cuts to counselling and mental health services for kids
• Parents being asked for regular funding contributions

Political situation:

• The budget will be held in October this year – a very important one as it is likely to indicate the total spending envelope over the next 4 year period (the spending review)

• Next year the spending review will set out what each government department is planned to receive in terms of revenue (day to day) and capital (buildings, equipment) over each of the next four years

• The Chancellor therefore has the opportunity to reverse austerity and spending cuts and start investing in schools and other public services

• Research (by New Economics Foundation and others) recently published suggests that the Chancellor could borrow up to £30bn more without breaching his ‘fiscal rules’ – these are the limits that the Chancellor has put on borrowing and spending in order to eliminate the deficit and bring borrowing down as a % of GDP

• We are seeing more and more Conservative MPs voice their concerns about this. In recent months, we’ve seen Theresa Villiers, Ann Main and Tim Loughton (ex-children’s minister) have all publicly raised concerns about impact of cuts to schools.

Events coming up:

• Parents and children are meeting MPs at Westminster this Wednesday 10 October

• The F40 group of lowest funding local authorities are meeting MPs at Westminster on 15 October

• Parent campaigners are holding a national day of action on 19 October – #floss4funding #parentsteachersunited

Parents, teaching unions, headteachers, F40 and National Governors Association are all out there making the case for more funding for schools in order to:

• Reverse cuts since 2015

• Enabling real terms funding increases per pupil going forward

• Meet increasing school costs, including teacher pay, pensions, NI, apprenticeship levy, inflation and other costs

• Ensure the implementation of a fair National Funding Formula that doesn’t relay on taking money away from some schools to give to others.

Natasha Devon, a mental health campaigner, was on channel 4 last night talking about exam stress and academic anxiety being on the increase. She mentioned our petition ! Please watch her interview here and sign and share our petition.

A welcome shift: as students get their GCSE results this week, Rescue Our Schools ruminates on Ofsted’s apparent change of heart

It’s not often that Ofsted gets the thumbs up from Rescue Our Schools. But credit where credit is due. If the guardians of “high standards” really are going to place less stress on exam results — as the newspapers have reported – then this can only be a good thing.
It has been blindingly obvious for years that if you make high stakes results a crucial factor in inspections – with the risk of league table demotion, academisation and management clear-outs if the results are deemed not good enough – then schools will prioritise scores and grades above everything else.
And although progress measures are now meant to play a key role in inspections, anyone who has experienced a visit from the inspectors will know that it is still extremely unpredictable to what extent the team will give those measures the weight they allegedly deserve.
So let’s hold our breath and hope that when the new framework comes out we see a substantial change in judgements  on the ground.
But let’s hope for much more than that. Firstly, many of the schools that have indulged in the worst excesses of drilling are in the “outstanding”  category. For them to get a more intelligent judgement Ofsted will have to make sure it visits these schools sooner rather than later.
Secondly, let’s hope that schools get the funding they so desperately need to enable them to reopen the moth-balled art departments and bring back the drama teachers. There is no sign of that so far from Mr Hinds.
Finally let’s hope that if Amanda Spielman,the Ofsted chief inspector, wants to ensure everyone gets a “quality education”, we can kickstart a debate among politicians (and Ofsted) about what that really looks like.
It is not enough to argue that stopping schools spending three years prepping for GCSEs will solve the problem. We need to demand – as parents, teachers and students – the freedom to develop approaches that deliver the skills young people need. They need both rich knowledge and rich experiences of education , that encourage critical thinking, problem solving and team work. And they need to develop those skills without obsessive “flight path” targets and punitive inspections which simply make matters worse.
Teaching unions have been asking for a deeper kind of education until they are blue in the face. The CBI (Confederation of British Industry) repeated the call only a few months ago. But it seems that change will only happen if parents – a.k.a millions of voters – make it clear that the current, improved offer that Ofsted is apparently demanding is still not good enough.
If you agree with all this, please talk to friends and family and get them on board with Rescue Our Schools!