Rescue Our Schools

Mental Health Question Time

Mental Health Question TimeRoS attended the ‘Mental Health Question Time’ event organised by the National Elf Service and hosted at UCL last night, 21st February 2018. You can watch the footage here.

Panellists and their comments included:

  • Dr Dominique Thompson (GP and student mental health expert) told us about the sharp increase in mental health issues in young people. One in four young women aged 16-24 report a mental health issue, teen suicide has increased by 79% over 8 years and research shows that university students are not as happy as their non-student counterparts. Dominique has also noted that there has been a big cultural shift in setting the bar higher and higher in regards to results. Graduates have moved away from seeing university as a “life experience” and now feel pressure to achieve a first. She feels we need to do more to prepare students for the transition from school to university or the workplace.
  • Lucinda Powell (Former psychology teacher, now working with schools and organisations to empower them to improve mental health and wellbeing amongst young people). Lucinda feels that the government Green Paper is unclear about what it means by a”whole school approach” and vague about who should take the designated lead on mental health in schools. Is there going to be a separate role created or are teachers going to be asked to take responsibility?
  • Mary George (Mental health blogger, Time to Change Young Champion, History student at Oxford University). Mary wants mental health to be part of the school curriculum which would include tools to look after our mental health in the same way that we look after our physical heath. Students who do not present as high risk should also have access to help.
  • Dr Susanne Schweizer (Sir Henry Wellcome Fellow, Blakemore Lab, UCL)  feels that we do not have the evidence base yet to implement policy. Should policy be targeted or universal? We need to understand what works for whom. She cited the Wellcome Trust funded MYRIAD project that has been universally rolled out across schools as having cost £7 million pounds, but that we don’t yet know if mindfulness has been effective. And if it has, how and why. Susanne questions if it may be better to target specific risk groups, such as children of parents who have a mental health issue, although these projects can run the risk of stigmatisation within schools.
  • Dr Jane Godsland (Editor-in-chief of The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health) finds the government Green Paper to be disappointing, the proposals oversimplistic and some aspects of it, premature. She feels that mental health policy should be evidence based and wasn’t sure that the extra work and inteventions that overworked schools are being asked to implement would translate into results. Jane agreed that mental health First Aid is a good idea but asks where the evidence is that this will help students in the long term. She also highlighted that each school would have different needs and that pupils themselves need to be consulted as this helps with policy implementation.
  • Dr Gemma Knowles (Epidemiologist and Researcher on The REACH Study, KCL) runs the research project REACH, happening across 12 schools in South London, where she and her team are work closely with 4.5 thousand young people to collect data on their mental health. This is a cohort study that aims to understand the risk factors that can develop into mental health issues. They are also running a more in-depth study with 600 adolescents that will be followed over 3 years. Gemma has found the schools and students to be very engaged, and this research is also helping to raise awareness around these issues.
  • Brenda McHugh (Co-Director of the Service for Schools at the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and co-founder of the Family School London) highlighted the need to include the “hidden population” of 48,000 marginalised children that are not known by the DfE through expulsion or removal from schools into PRUs. She wants more research and provision to be made for these children and their families as they are at a very high risk of developing mental health issues. Brenda would like to see a researcher-in-residence in schools that could look at what is going on now and run small projects that could be implemented immediately.

Don’t forget to send us your thoughts on this subject by next Monday so we can send our reponse to the government’s green paper. See our statement here.


RoS’ Madeleine Holt on Reasons to be cheerful podcast today


Listen to this podcast with Ed Miliband and Geoff Llyod talk to James Graham, Jez Bennett and Madeleine Holt about how we’re failing to tutor the next generation adequately, in particular failing to put creativity at the centre of the curriculum. Interesting listening.

Madeleine comes on at 37:00

What do you think about young people’s mental health ?

We are calling on you to let us know what you think about how the government propose action on improving mental health provision for young people. Read more about it here.

We have a deadline to respond to this, so please get your comments in by Monday 26th February.

We need a Twitter volunteer


We have a small and very dedicated group of volunteers who man our facebook and twitter page, but we are losing our main twitter person.

We do not want to disappoint our followers, who we really enjoy engaging with, so are looking for another volunteer.

If you are keen to make a difference and are familiar with Twitter, please contact us here.

Your chance to respond to Bold Beginnings

Ofsted Bold Beginnings

Only two days left to let us know what your thoughts are on this report. Please send us a message by 16th February and we can include your comments in our response to Ofsted.

Reasons to be cheerful

512Rescue Our School’s co-founder, Madeleine Holt, will be talking to Ed Miliband on Monday 19th February in his much-listened to podcast. Madeleine will be talking about how we are becoming international outliers in developing such a narrow and uninspiring curriculum. She is joined by headteacher Jez Bennett, who is pioneering a broader, English baccalaureate, and the playwright James Graham.

To hear this united call for greater creativity in schools, tune in next Monday.


Excellent illustration of what is happening in our schools and why


Taken from the Powerbase website, Schools Portal

Rescue Our Schools co-founder, Madeleine Holt, spoke alongside children’s author Michael Rosen at an event yesterday for NUT members in Lambeth in South London. The subject – Tired of Testing? – was a chance for speakers and teachers to tell their stories of how too much testing is exhausting and depressing children and young people, parents and teachers.

Michael Rosen shared stories of the sterile homework his children have to endure in their schools. Madeleine spoke of the absurdity of ‘baseline” testing of four year olds, with the results then used to set “flightpaths” to SATS in Year 6 – which in turn set predictions for GCSES.

As for the government’s alleged commitment to social mobility, research has shown that disadvantaged children are likely to do poorly in baseline testing, and then risk being set on “lower ability” tables from four onwards. Elaine Bennett spoke powerfully about the open letter she organised on behalf of Keep Early Years Unique. It called for Ofsted’s Bold Beginnings report on formalising the Reception year to be withdrawn. It now has nearly 3,000 signatories, among them the child development expert, Lord Robert Winston.

The conclusion of the NUT event? The whole system is becoming increasingly shocking, and needs to change for the sake of our children’s and our teachers’ sanity. More than a Score, the coalition of which Rescue Our Schools is a member, is planning a campaign focused on mental health later this year.

Important motion passed in York for education


The City of York Council passed an important motion last Thursday night (14th Dec) calling on the Secretary of State for Education to look again at the funding settlement for York which has seen it’s pupils become the lowest funded in the country. Cllr Jonny Crawshaw (Labour) – a founder member of Rescue Our Schools – brought an amendment to the original Lib Dem motion that widened it’s scope to included exam factories, teacher workload and the narrowing curriculum. The subsequently amended motion was supported by Labour, Lib Dem, Green and Independent Councillors while Conservative Councillors abstained. You can read the motion as passed here

Rescue Our Schools’ Christmas message


Christmas is approaching, and schools across the country are making preparations for shows, parties, and fundraisers. But as we approach the end of term there is a distinct lack of Christmas cheer for our pupils and teachers, and indeed for anyone interested in making sure that all children, regardless of their circumstances, access the education they need to thrive. The autumn budget brought no relief from the rising cost pressures affecting our schools, and last weekend the Social Mobility Commission resigned en masse, on the grounds that there is no capacity in government to actually deliver on improving outcomes for the poorest children in our society and narrowing the gap between the best and worst off.

Many teachers, especially in primary schools, dig into their pockets to buy their pupils a little token at Christmas. But these same teachers are now also having to pay for pencils and other essentials in their classroom on a regular basis, and there is no sign of that coming to an end. These are the same teachers who have endured 7 years of what the government euphemistically calls ‘pay restraint’ (in other words, a pay cut after inflation). Some of these teachers, like their pupils, are having to turn to food banks to get through the day. Yet again, the government has passed up the opportunity to invest in our children’s future, and instead continues to rely on the generosity of public sector workers to deliver public services. The government has cast itself as Scrooge, so far without redemption. Let’s hope the spirit of Christmas future visits before it is too late.

Christmas Presents for Education Nuts!


Rescue Our Schools would like to recommend some Christmas reading/possible presents for education enthusiasts like us?

Education Forward came out a few weeks ago: it is a collection of essays arguing that our education system is stuck in Victorian times, and needs a total rethink to prepare children for the 21st century.

(Rescue Our Schools’ co-founder Madeleine Holt has written an essay on More than a Score, the campaign for alternatives to high stakes testing, esp SATs.)

Another great book is Cleverlands. Secondary school teacher Lucy Crehan goes on a grand tour of countries that Gove/Gibberish praise for their PISA results. She discovers how much they trust teachers, don’t link scores to judging schools, generally don’t set kids etc. A fascinating and easy read.

Finally, a firm favourite: the Truth abour Our Schools by Melissa Benn. A handy summary of the key facts you need when you have to argue against grammar schools/academisation, name your topic!

Happy reading!