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Mental Health Question Time

21.02.018 Mental Health Question Time at Darwin Building, UCL

RoS 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.

22.01.18  The NUT members meeting in Lambeth ask the question: Tired of Testing?

Rescue Our Schools co-founder, Madeleine Holt, spoke alongside children’s author Michael Rosen at an event 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.

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12.01.18 Protests, Grammars and Baseline Testing: a report from the Fabian New Year Conference

A gathering of the Fabian Society has never been so exciting – and Rescue Our Schools was there to see it. Within minutes of the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, beginning his speech a small group of Trump sympathisers shuffled into the room, calling for the President to be allowed to visit Britain  (he still can if he wants to…). Assembled Fabians looked shocked  at being at the centre of  a breaking story, as camera crews and photographers gathered round. The protesters refused to budge so we waited half an hour for the police  to arrive  – their numbers clearly depleted by Theresa May’s cuts – to usher the self-styled “White Pendragons” out of the room.
Now to the earnest stuff – what we talked about at the conference. I visited the education session, which was packed. Stand out panellists were Tracy Brabin, the shadow early years minister, and Melissa Benn, the education writer and novelist. The topic was how to flesh out the idea of the National Education Service – a concept first raised by Benn in her book “School Wars”. It has since been taken up by Labour in its last manifesto, but it remains light on detail. The session was one way of trying to put a bit more meat on the bone.
Key issues to arise were, in Benn’s view, the need to end the selection that remains in the state system through the surviving 164 grammar schools. She made the point that “Labour needs to own its support for comprehensives” – something that the party has historically failed to do. Benn argued that there were many Tory MPs who oppose selection, and it’s time to build a consensus against it. A National Education Service has no credibility if a core group of selective schools remain, and are thus not available to all students.
Another key issue to arise was the importance of the early years. Brabin made a commitment to Labour bringing more graduates into the sector and increasing wages for all early years staff. Quality of provision, she said, was the most important thing. Research suggests the first few years of a child’s life are the most important in narrowing gaps caused by socio-economic inequality. As for the government’s plans to introduce baseline testing of four years olds, Brabin came out fighting: “We have to scrap baseline”. This was met with a round of applause from the audience. When the session ended, there was a long line of attendees wanting to talk to Brabin. This surely shows how much people who care about education want to influence current political thinking.  A roadshow on the National Education Service is apparently in the planning. When and where? We want to be there. Politicians, please take note.


14.12.17 The City of York Council meeting regarding education funding

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. The motion reads as follows:

Thank you Lord Mayor.

I welcome the motion put forward by Cllr Mason but I think it is crucial that we underline the multiple difficulties facing York’s schools which is why I have put forward this amendment.

Since 2010 our schools and teachers have come under sustained pressure from a toxic mix of frozen funding, rising costs, unrealistic expectations and punitive oversight.

Everyone here knows that York’s pupil’s are the lowest funded in the country. Council will no doubt hear Members championing the number of Good and Outstanding schools in the city or the good GCSE results as if this proves everything is fine as it is. It is welcome, obviously, but I would caution against using this as a yardstick. Some of our outstanding schools have not had an OFSTED inspection in almost a decade, the attainment gap for York’s disadvantaged pupils remains high and there are many varied things that make a good school – not all of which are captured by OFSTED inspections or exam performance.

For many teachers the reality is a constant struggle to maintain a varied and engaging curriculum whilst pupils are expected to reach arbitrary bars that sometimes seem to pay as much respect to child development as mandating that every child grow 5cm a year. Staff find themselves trying to protect children as young as 6 & 7 from exam stress whilst their workload makes maintaining a reasonable work-life balance increasingly difficult.

Parents are increasingly being asked to make contributions towards basic materials and the cost of school trips and school dinners is on the rise.

And there is a Mental Health crisis amongst our children and young people. This is not something that is happening elsewhere, it is here in York where we see an above average number of admissions through A&E for self harm and high levels of anxiety. Headteachers have told me that they would intervene before problems became acute if only they had the resources to do so. And whilst the introduction of Well-being workers is welcome, there are not nearly enough of them to go round.

Our teachers are reaching the end of their tether. Experienced staff are leaving the profession early and 40% of newly qualified teachers don’t make it through their first five years. Last year nationally 150 000 teachers took leave or left the profession entirely due to work-related stress. It’s no wonder when school leaders at every level are only ever one bad set of results away from losing their jobs.

This is no way to run an education system.

I’m sure that everyone in this room wants the same thing for York’s children and young people; we want an education system that inspires them, we want them to be happy, to reach their potential and to leave with good prospects.

But don’t kid yourselves that this can be done on a shoestring.

And nor should education be pitched as the fix-all panacea. It is a crucial component, yes, but our children and young people need better access to mental health support services, they need time and space to develop, they need places to hang out and just be teenagers, they need families who have enough money to put food on the table and they need hope that there is something for them at the end of it all.

I know that a lot of this is out with our control in Local Government but at least we can show the staff and pupils of York that we are on their side, that we understand the difficulties they are facing. We need to send a clear message from this Council that the teachers, the children and the young people of our city deserve better! – I therefore urge members to support this amendment!

 11.09.17 Free event at a school in NW6 -Education, education, education…what is the best way forward in 2017

The crisis in school funding and the bold Labour promise to abolish tuition fees put education at the heart of June’s election battle and the mainstream political agenda.

93% of us send our children to state schools. As parents and citizens we care passionately about every aspect of state education, and the resources that go into it.

In this wide-ranging discussion on what education should look like in the 21st century, we bring together the head of our own successful local community school, an award-winning campaigner and the author of Labour’s popular election manifesto to discuss what’s going right, what’s going wrong and how we can bring about meaningful, sustainable change.

Judith Enright, head teacher of Queens Park Community School

Jonny Crawshaw, Rescue Our Schools

Andrew Fisher, chief policy advisor to the leader of the Labour Party

Chaired by Melissa Benn, writer and campaigner

24.10.16 Multi-academy trusts – Education Select Committee

 Multi-academy trusts (MATs) are groups of academies that have come together to form a charitable company, with a single group of ‘members’ (who have an overview of the governance arrangements) and a single board of trustees or director.

We want to hear directly from parents or guardians of children who are at MATs.

We will be asking you about:

  • the characteristics of high performing MATs
  • how the performance of MATs should be assessed
  • the balance of decision-making at different levels
  • the appropriateness of formal governance structures

28.09.16 West Sussex NUT – public meeting on education. Crawley

 Are our Schools just Exam Factories?

Is the Prevent Strategy Working?
Your education questions answered by a panel of experts.

West Sussex NUT is holding a public meeting on education in Crawley on Wednesday 28th September, 7 to 9 pm at Crawey Civic Hall, The Boulevard, RH10 1UZ.

Email Address:

12.11.16 The Stalled Revolution – 1 day conference, London

School Revision: Trans Inclusion in Education is a day-long event that will start to imagine what school life for young, trans people could look like in the future.

Join a choir to sing out against privatisation of schools

NUT Members have written a song “These Schools are Our Schools”. They say:

We want to record this song for teachers, parents, governors and heads

everywhere who oppose the privatisation of out schools. Please join us

in our choir!  You don’t need to be an experienced singer, Gitika

Partington, who is going to teach us the song and then direct us

during the recording.  We will record the choir for use on social


Come along straight after school Thursday 28th April to Hamilton

House and then Sunday morning 8th May to record the song.

Refreshments will be provided.

This is an NUT initiative but we welcome all teachers, school staff,

parents and those who want to add their voices in opposition to school

academisation and privatisation. Bring friends and colleagues from

your school community.

When you think about it a choir is a lot like a trade union.  Together

we are strong and our voices combined are more powerful than when we

are alone.

Time is short. We must act now!

Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BD, map here

Sign up sheet here

Big Turnout for Saturday’s March

In London on Saturday, parents and children marched together to show solidarity against forced academisation of schools, ditching elected parent governors and funding cuts in deprived areas.

One of the organisers, Madeleine, spoke in Trafalgar Square. She said: “After the recent announcements on education, enough is enough. Rescue Our Schools is not party political, it is parent political. It is time for parents to get organised in cities, towns and villages throughout England and speak out with one voice.”

Left to Last

Rescue Our Schools’ David Taylor on why we need to value vocational education again There is something very symbolic in the BTEC results being left to the end of this quite exceptional educational summer. Despite the fact they have the…

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