Here is the text of the speech made by Gary McVeigh-Haye at the NEU/NUT Conference on 30 March, speaking on a motion about the crisis in young peoples’ mental health:

MOTION 20 – AMENDMENT 1 – Crisis in Young People’s Mental Health

Conference, President. I have been flown in a plane, but I’m not qualified to fly a plane. I’ve been treated by a dentist, but I’m not qualified to perform dentistry. I have received counselling for mental health problems, but I’m no more qualified to offer focussed and wholly appropriate counselling than I am to perform the former two tasks. So why would the Government so undervalue the cost of providing properly trained individuals to fulfil their ambition of having a mental health first aider in every school by 2020?

In the first year of the programme the Youth MHFA organisation has provided 100 one day training courses to around 1200 individuals. The cost of funding an individual is around £200. Conference I would suggest that to train staff to an adequate level in order to enable them to support children with mental health issues would actually cost way in excess of this amount. Furthermore, the idea of bundling around 120 staff at a time onto a one day course is never going to offer sufficient detail of training to enable those staff to fully deal with this ever escalating crisis of mental health issues in children from primary age up to university students.

Put simply, in their usual haphazard way, this Government is applying a sticking plaster to fix a gapping wound.

Conference, in order to even begin to deal with this crisis in young people’s mental health it’s not enough to look at the cure, we need to look at the roots of the problem and in doing so seek prevention.

Recently, I actually attended a very rare event for teachers. I attended CPD course that genuinely made me think. The session was based on the concept of load theory. Many of you will know that this theory is based on the capacity of the working memory and the limited information that our working memory can process. Even though there have been many creditable studies into the concept of load theory and the dangers of overloading young peoples working memories This Easter holidays children across the country are being bombarded with revision timetables, this ceaseless attack coming from all directions. Even yesterday Barnaby Lenon, Chairman of the Independent Schools Council, published advice arguing that GCSE students should be revising for seven hours a day over the Easter holidays. No wonder these still developing young minds are going into meltdown at the prospect of page after page of information pushing their working memory beyond capacity.

Conference, in 1986 the barbaric practice of corporal punishment was quite rightly banned from our schools. Why now, in the twenty first century, are we allowing a form of cognitive corporal punishment to pervade into our classrooms?

The Guardian recently published figures that show that whilst 16 million people in the UK show some form of mental illness, ¾ of these illnesses originate in childhood. Additionally, 73% of children with mental health problems are not receiving proper treatment for their conditions. Furthermore, it takes an average of 10 years for children to receive adequate treatment, and because of this we are send increasing numbers of children into adult life bereft of the personal capacity to cope with this increasingly complex world.

Conference, as teachers we implement wave one intervention in learning every day. At the frontline we also deliver wave one intervention for our children’s mental wellbeing. But now the Government must put its money where it’s mouth is and properly fund properly trained professionals to look after our children’s mental health. To paraphrase something Kevin Courtney said a couple of years ago, we know the cost of fully funding children’s mental health services, we do not know the price we will pay if we don’t properly fund this provision.

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