NHS demo tomorrow

Hi everyone,

Just to let you all know, tomorrow, at 12pm in Portland Place, central London, is the national demonstration marking the 70th anniversary of the National Health Service (NHS). The march will continue until Parliament Square, via Regent Street and Whitehall.

I – Joe Booth – and others, including Jon Ashworth are part of a deputation on it delivering a petition to Theresa May. The petition is here: https://t.co/KDvhQxa8F?amp=1.

Please please, attend and share if you can. Tory attacks on the NHS are a damage to both our health and our lives!

Public meeting a week on Saturday

Hi everyone,

Just to let you all know, there is a public meeting on Saturday 7th July 2018 at 2pm until 5pm at Marcon Court Community Hall, Hackney Central. It is organised so we can all talk about how stressful education has become and the ways forward in campaigning. It’s a public event so everyone is welcome. But we don’t want the young people attending to be outnumbered by the adults coming, as it will be structured around a friendly and welcoming environment.

The Facebook event is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/213954136068438/.

Please please attend if you can, and share it around social media and elsewhere.

 

In solidarity, Joe Booth, JoePLBooth@gmail.com

 

Report of the last NEU/NUT conference

Hey everyone,

Here is a written report of the last conference of the National Education Union (NEU), and everything regarding support for the TSOS campaign.

 

The last National Union of Teachers’ conference: all words and no action to Take the Stress Out of Studying!
The last ever National Union of Teachers’ (NUT) conference took place over the Easter weekend, 29th March to 3 April 2018. From next year the union is part of a new union formed with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), which will be called the National Education Union (NEU).
The NEU will be the largest education union and the NUT has been the largest teachers’ union and certainly the most radical. This makes it one of the key arenas where we can forward the struggle to ‘Take the Stress Out of Studying’ (TSOS).
Several of the NUT branches (which are called divisions) passed a motion to go to conference to support TSOS. However, disappointingly, it was not prioritised by enough divisions for the motion to be taken at conference. Despite this the NUT continues to make all the right noises on student stress. They regularly note the terrible affects on students (and education workers!) mental health of the current education system. They support campaigns called ‘More than a Score’ and issue reports called ‘Exam Factories’.
I personally believe that all testing in schools is unnecessary. It is about labelling the students and making ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ for our unequal society not about learning, it also tells teachers nothing they do not know already. Teachers under the pressure of having to justify themselves to management and management having to justify the school to Ofsted and the government, value test outcomes far above any other measures of the students welfare or learning. The pressure passes from government to management to teacher to student. It is particularly disgusting in primary schools where children as young as 5 and 6 now can face up to 6 weeks testing out of a 39 week academic year. As a primary school teacher and a parent of primary school children myself, I consider this abuse. The acceptance of this as abuse is widely held by delegates at the NUT conference. Now the government is suggesting testing 4 year olds when they enter school, baseline testing!
But, despite a strong and vocal minority in conference, which calls for the union to take decisive action; firstly by boycotting all testing in primary schools, the conference voted to commit to little more than consulting its members and a campaign conference. That is essentially the same strategy the union has had for years. The most basic thing we can do to stop the abuse and regain our dignity as a union of education workers is to ballot to stop administering the abuse. The campaign to make that a reality will continue into the new union.

Duncan Morrison,
Assistant Divisional Secretary of Lewisham Division NEU (NUT), personal capacity

Advice to revise 7 hours a day for GCSEs over Easter ‘unbelievable’

Head of an independent school organisation has recommended that pupils study *7 hours a day* over the Easter holiday period, putting massive stress on pupils and perpetuating the idea that they shouldn’t have the genuine time off for rest and relaxation.

Worth having a read: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/mar/30/advice-to-revise-7-hours-a-day-for-gcses-over-easter-unbelievable

This is on top of the stress that pupils already face through exams and day-to-day work. And it must not continue! How are you enjoying your learning if you’re expected to have no rest?!!

Please leave a comment if you wish and we will have a discussion about how to fight this stress.

 

In solidarity, Joe Booth,     JoePLBooth@gmail.com

Speaking to the council about stress in studying

Last week, Joe Booth (young activist in Hackney) gave a speech to Hackney Council’s Health & Wellbeing board about youth mental health and cuts to Special Needs support services.

Here’s what he said:

My name is Joe Booth. I’m a 16-year-old autistic student at Mossbourne Community Academy. And I’m so concerned about school kids’ mental health that I have launched a campaign about it. The campaign is called Take The Stress Out Of Studying. TSOS for short. It has a website (tsos.blog), it has supporters around the country and has a petition signed by over 120 people. 

I want to make 3 points: *Firstly, the extent of stress and mental health problems amongst students. *Secondly, how school conditions contribute to this. *And thirdly, how important special education needs support is in dealing with this.

Firstly, one of the main things that prompted me to start this campaign was the suicide of my 16-year-old family friend last year. But lots of school-age kids experience mental health problems, and I myself have been taking daily anti-depressants since November. I know of students who have eating disorders, insomnia, distress, anxiety and other mental health problems. 

Secondly, school contributes to these mental health problems. For example, I’ve submitted a list of 5 concerns to the Vice Principal of my school. And what they are are: *Students are given so much homework that we have to spend hours every night doing it. We’re given at least 10 pieces of homework a week. Students stay up doing homework until midnight, 1am or even 2am. *Students are frequently kept in detention, often for trivial reasons. Students are often anxious about asking teachers for help with homework because they may detain them. Detentions until 6pm result in demoralisation and overwork. As a result, we become tired and stressed, and our family and leisure time is disrupted. *The academy is too strict and unsympathetic with us. Students are anxious about admitting to teachers if they have forgotten to bring equipment, or cannot complete or do homework, because the teachers will shout at them or detain them. As a result, students suffer anxiety about being sanctioned by teachers and can struggle to sleep. *Students have told teachers that they feel unwell (mentally or physically) and teachers have told them to ‘pull themselves together and keep learning’. As a result, students do not get the help they need with their health issues and become more unwell. *Special Needs students have become distressed and angry due to detentions and examination pressure. Sometimes, learning support staff have increased the lengths of their sanctions as a form of punishment instead of trying to understand what’s making them distressed and showing sympathy. As a result, Special Needs students are not getting the learning support they need, and are becoming excessively distressed.

Thirdly, particularly for students with Special Needs the extra support we need is crucial in helping us to deal with these stresses. E.g. through my Education Health & Care Plan (EHCP), I get a Teaching Assistant (TA) who can explain things to me so I don’t get distressed and somebody who I can talk to when I get upset. And I get Speech & Language Therapy which over the years, have helped me navigate social interaction and make friends. Any cut to Special Education Needs support in Hackney will lead to worsening students’ mental health. We should be improving the school environment for all our kids, especially all with special needs, not making it worse. We should be increasing support, not reducing it. 

To summarise, there is a real crisis in young people’s mental health. Conditions in schools are contributing to this crisis and we need the council and the government to increase support to kids with Special Needs, not taking it away.

 

Thanks for reading

How school systems are designed to maintain class orthodoxy in society

Hey everyone,

Here’s an interesting article about education systems and how they’re designed to maintain orthodoxy to the current establishment run by the bosses and Upper Classes of society.

Focuses more on America but it’s worth having a read. We could use it to focus on the stress in studying in the USA but also as a whole worldwide.

https://jacobinmag.com/2018/03/school-authority-punishment-police-citizenship

 

In solidarity, Joe Booth                                                                                                                         JoePLBooth@gmail.com

 

GCSE English Literature petition being debated in parliament

Good news:

Due to over 160 thousand signatures of the Change the GCSE English Literature exam from closed book to open book on https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/200299, the Petitions Committee (the group of MPs who oversee the petitions system) have agreed to schedule a debate on this petition.

This is all good news! Odds are: the more we put pressure on the government to carry out demands to oversee our welfare, respond to our demands, and take us – the oppressed – very seriously, the more likely they are to do it. There’s a traditional saying amongst all movements when we demand for them to become a mass movement for the many not for the few: when we’re together we have power.

If you have any ideas on what to do next to campaign for this demand (e.g. a demonstration at the Department for Education), please leave a comment and we will start a mass movement.

Thank you for your time, hopefully this has helped with the movement to take the stress out of studying

In solidarity, Joe Booth

Political education and understanding prejudice in the modern world

Holocaust Memorial Day and Political Education

My name is Joe Booth. I’m a 16-year-old left-wing Labour Party activist from the London Borough of Hackney. I’m currently in my final year at secondary school at an academy in Hackney Downs part of the Mossbourne Federation.
My school is a pressurizing experience: Students are given at least 2 pieces of long homework a day, Christmas was only for 13 days, the examination structure is 100% just exams, students get long detentions for simply standing up without permission, school starts at 8.17am every day and so it continues. But in this article I want to address another issue in studying, which is how school students should be entitled to political education, and specifically that issue is – as it’s an issue for this month (January) – is Holocaust Memorial Day and the need for political education over it.
Holocaust Memorial Day
At an assembly at my school, a teacher gave a lecture on Holocaust Memorial Day, and why it is important to never repeat those horrors of the Nazis: the Nazi ideal to kill millions of people just for their characteristic shall never be repeated!, we need to be wary and have open eyes on hatred and prejudice occurring today, it still occurs today with the situation of Donald Trump and his racism, sexism and homophobia. That’s all correct.
But don’t forget the more structural ways hatred and prejudice occurs in the modern world: black people are still murdered by the American police for the institutionally racist idea that they’re dangerous, migrants in the UK are still scapegoated and attacked by neo-fascists and our Tory government, our British government still sells weapons to Saudi Arabia which allows them to behead gays and women who don’t abide by patriarchy, a lot of Britons are indifferent to the catastrophes and casualties in the Syrian Civil War, and so it continues. So is prejudice and hatred still occurring?! Yes!!
It is, but we need to remember how structural it can be. What was the result of the 1993 racist murder of black student, Stephen Lawrence? The Metropolitan Police covered it up, and institutionally excused the killers, dismissing the voices of Stephen’s parents and their lawyer. Nevertheless, Stephen’s parents never stopped fighting and since then, led a campaign which bread the 1999 MacPherson Report that led to the sackings of the corrupt police who covered it up, and in 2013 Stephen’s mother, Doreen became a Labour Party Member of the House of Lords. You see, that gives us a much better understanding of how structural prejudice can be and how it still continues today, even in the most subtle means.
So, while the authorities rightly tell us to not be racist or otherwise discriminatory, but in our society, as we have just found, the authorities themselves advocate racism and discrimination. So, we need to learn to question and debate the authorities, which means that not only should we have political education at school but that it should be education in how to think critically rather than education as being told what to think.
So, on Holocaust Memorial Day, I will agree with the message we’re told by teachers that the Holocaust should not repeat but I am also going to think about why it happens and how to stop it from happening again, and not just on Holocaust Memorial Day but throughout the year.
Political Education and Stress in Studying
Now, I and some others have launched a campaign in September 2017 called Take The Stress Out Of Studying (TSOS) demanding to reduce distress, improve mental health and improve education. Here’s a link to the website: tsos.blog. Starting from Christmas, I set up a chat group of students at my school involved heavily in TSOS.
One of the group’s and other TSOS supporters’ demands was for political education and debating to be held in schools, without students having to submit to arbitrary school authoritarianism. What we need is political education and debating rather than just regularly-organised and rigid lectures from teachers about the issue where nobody gets to argue back or have a simple debate. In this case, we need more democratically-structured political education over the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust and why neither of the two should be repeated, and just as importantly, how we can recognise racism and discrimination today – and how structural the two can be.
Likewise, on December 9, 2017, I went to a Hackney Young Labour launch and we discussed ways to support the youth in Hackney within the education system: some of us argued for politics to be a compulsory school subject, and some others argued for more campaigns to be launched amongst the youth, like TSOS, and for more democratically-structured debating clubs to be held. Funny enough, I’m already in the process amongst Hackney Young Labours to establish a Young Labour group in Hackney, and if that works, a debating club will tentatively be opened – which I’ve already discussed with comrades – and there’ll be a bigger integration into politics.
So, while it is important that we learn properly about how to fight the existing prejudices in society, but under our school system, as we have just found, students are not learning to critique racism in such ways that we can think independently. So, we need to learn more political education within schools more regularly, which means that it should be education in how to think critically rather than education as being told what to think.
So, when we begin demanding for more political debating in the school system and specifically, to understand racism and discrimination in the modern world, we will demand, amongst the TSOS campaign, for more democratically-structured debating sessions and the chances to think more critically.

In solidarity, Joe Booth

Too much homework and not enough rest?!!!

13 Days of Christmas, 4 long homeworks, and rigid preparation for exams. Take The Stress Out Of Studying

My name’s Joe Booth. I’m a Yr11 student at Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney, and I wanna start an expanded discussion on one collective pressure amongst students around me.

Now we have a tradition that in every holiday, esp Xmas, we need a break, and a rest. Well, I’ll say: At MCA, we never got one! We only had 13 days of Xmas, prior to longer summer holiday, and had at least 3 long homeworks to complete. So we never got a break. Already, at school, I see so many tired faces amongst students and staff (but mainly students) because only 2 days after partying until 6am, they’re back at school, overworked and got detentions for not completing or doing homeworks.

This simply cannot go on! How are you learning if your head hurts?! Already, I’ve spoken to at least 50/1000 students at school (I only know at least 80) and all of them are pissed off! We all want an education system where we’re not overworked, not exploited, not detained, and we get a proper rest!

But the movement at school is in jeopardy: managers confiscated the petition whilst I was petitioning in the playground, and all that’s left is for me and others is to put pressure on the school with 2000 against 100, for a more evident deputation to be held.

Please please share and join in this discussion. This is a real step-forward to taking the stress out of studying and specifically for longer breaks at school. If you’re one of these students or anyone (of any kind) in a similar situation please leave comments down below and we’ll have a large discussion and democratic conclusion.

In solidarity, Joe Booth