Why It Took Me So Long To Realise The Importance Of Education By Eddie Luigi

Let me make this clear from the start. I failed my 11+, and was thereby consigned to the ever growing ‘scrap heap’ of the under educated.

This never occurred to me to be a problem. I could read, I could write and I could accomplish basic arithmetic. You can not miss something that you never had.

I joined the Royal Navy, and learnt how to read electrical engineering manuals, in order to carry out the tasks assigned to me. My leisure reading was, purposely, limited to pulp fiction western and detective novels.

The news held no interest for me and I was quite happy blindly obeying orders. In an armed forces environment there is no place for a square peg in a round hole. Life was cosy in an environment where you were cocooned from the cares and worries of the civilian population.

Now that I have retired, and broken three television sets getting angry at day time programs, I decided to do something positive with my free time and enrolled at my local college for an access course with a view to attending university.

Now I understand why the Tories don’t want to invest in education and why the media write articles that you only need a rudimentary education to read, but not necessarily understand.

Primary and Secondary education is adequate for what used to be termed ‘factory fodder’. You are taught that this is a word and it must be true because there it is. You are taught to read the words but not taught to question the words, and as long as there is a roof over your head and food on your table you don’t particularly care. You assume an ‘I’m alright Jack’ attitude.

However, what about your children, or your children’s children.

Once you get beyond rudimentary education you start to question the written words and ask

Who wrote this?

Why did they write it?

What are they trying to achieve?

This is just the thing that the Tories want to avoid. They do not want an educated population that will question any of their policies, they require an obedient population that are happy to live off the few crumbs that might fall from the master’s banquet.

If you want a quiet life for yourself vote Tory, do not become educated, accept that ‘this is the way things are’ and ignore your children’s plaintiff cries of inequality.

“There is no more far-seeing investment for a nation than to put milk, food and education into young children” Winston Churchill 1939

Children Listening To Political Debate: Wrong or Necessary? By Kelly Grehan and Lisa Mulholland

Broadening Children’s Political Horizons? Some may say it’s wrong but it didn’t do Michael Rosen any harm.

This week we, accompanied by our children ages 13 to 8, went to an event at Conway Hall: ‘Michael Rosen In Conversation With Daniel Hahn.’

Michael was there to speak about his early life, which he chronicles in his new memoir, ‘So, They Call You Pisher.’

He spoke about parent’s running Communist Party meetings in the front room, being involved in campaigning and his acts on anti-establishment rebellion at Oxford University. Cheekily in the question and answers section we asked for a poem and, to the delight of ourselves and everyone in the room, he recited ‘Hot Food.’

Before the book signing, which we gladly joined, Michael came over and chatted to the children and commented that he hoped “they were not bored by the political talk” to which we responded that “they are used to it.”

Growing up with parents who are political activists, our children are well versed in left wing arguments, being dragged to campaigning activities and listening to furious arguments.

Is this right or wrong?

Growing up listening to arguments about football, no one ever commented on that as being anything unusual; so it is interesting to see politics often portrayed as something ‘not for the interest of children.’

Michael talked about the culture he was exposed to as a child by his parents. This was felt empathetically by our children who are regularly dragged from political rally to watch an author on a book tour, or to the theatre.

Why do we do it?

Well we think there is so much to see, so many sides of life that a person should experience in order to experience the diversity of life.

Daniel Hahn himself said to Michael ” With all the education and culture you were exposed to, it must have been difficult for the school to match this” to which Michael replied that education doesn’t have to end at the classroom.

Thinking about how restrictive the curriculum has become in the last few years with the new reforms in 2014, we think that now more than ever we need to enrich the cultural lives of our children outside of school.

With the Arts being watered down in Secondary and with Primary school children spending the majority of their time working on Maths, English and Handwriting; it is worrying that their creative abilities and critical thinking wings are being clipped before they’ve even been allowed to grow.

Some may say that teaching your children the subject of politics is wrong, or that it is indoctrinating them, but I beg to differ.

Letting them hear arguments from left wing ideology can’t be a bad thing when those arguments teach our children basic human values like sharing and social responsibility.

Of course not all parents can afford to take their children to the theatre or have the time to go to events such as these. But we feel that all children deserve to have a broad education that covers the arts, politics and other subjects not normally covered in the curriculum.

So we hope that a Labour government gets elected soon and fulfils their promise of bringing back the creative arts and broadening the educational experience of all children, not just those whose parents can afford extra curricular activities.

We are, after all a nation with a strong cultural heritage.

Without an education broader than what is currently being delivered by the curriculum set out in 2014, how do we expect to produce the future Shakespeare’s, the future David Bowie’s and the future Michael Rosen’s?

Kelly Grehan and Lisa Mulholland are the Co Founders of The Avenger UK

Kids Talk Politics And Put The World To Rights – By The Avenger Kids

At the Avenger our main mission is to put issues often unheard by mainstream media under the spotlight. And that means allowing people from all walks of life to share their experiences and view points on current affairs and politics.
Children and young people’s ideas and opinions are often unheard by the media; yet they often have the most creative ideas and simplest solutions to society’s problems.

We interviewed four children aged between 8 and 13 on their views on politics and this is the first of many Avenger Kids blogs, which will eventually extend out to older children and young people.

We feel that children and young people should be encouraged more to think critically about the world they live in  and although the ‘Votes at 16’ discussion may not have got the attention we feel it deserved in Parliament,  we will continue to keep that discussion going and ensure that children and young people keep talking about politics. 

We kicked off with asking the children; Luca aged 8, Naomi aged 9, Chloe aged 9 and Harrison aged 13 what they would change if they were Prime Minister. They had so much to say that we had to break it down into common themes!!

Here is what that had to say:

Healthcare


Chloe aged 9: Why do they charge for prescriptions when you are ill and probably don’t have a lot of money anyway do they want people to die or to live?  All medical things should be free. Everyone should be allowed to live.

Luca aged 8: I would keep it free forever. I would have more doctors and more technology to help them find better cures. Also it is very dangerous for people to have one kidney so this should be illegal. Everyone should have two kidneys.

Naomi aged 9: When children are sick they should get seen first in hospital because they have little bodies and want to go home to play. 

Harrison aged 13:  Our health service is good but we need to fund it more. It is severely under appreciated and under funded.

We must focus on welfare and healthcare more rather than industries. Why does the government help big industries and corporations? I don’t understand it because they can look after themselves. We don’t need to help and fund them they earn so much and they don’t even need to advertise. We should be helping the NHS and welfare instead.

Education and Schools:

Luca:  I think kids should learn about politics. And more fun stuff like cooking and art.

I would change the rules in schools. I would let kids go to the toilet any time they want. I would also give schools more money. 

Harrison: We need to change the way we educate like core subjects have been boiled down to three. We can’t thrive with just these. The system is broken. They constantly shove the core subjects down our throat. They act like anything other than core subjects is useless. In truth the core subjects are there to provide the basics. Without extras like art and technology we will come across as boring and we won’t have any skills. A lot of our subjects tie into together.

For opportunities for careers that pay well, we need extra creative subjects. We need to broaden out more to be successful as adults.

Naomi: Schools should pay for all kids to have iPads and technology to make learning fair.

School dinners should have nicer things like nuggets and things that kids like. Some children are not eating because they are horrible and that makes people sick. 

Children with lots of problems like my brother should still be allowed to come to the same school as all the other children but should just have their own class. Otherwise children forget there are children like that and laugh at them and be rude. 

They would not do that if they had lunch with them and if the others could see them all the time. I miss my twin brother at school.

Chloe:  There should be dabbing in school, and no school uniform so you don’t have to rush to buy it and it costs more money.  

There should be free school meals for everyone because not everyone can afford it and everyone should be doing more fun stuff at school.

Housing, Homelessness and The Poor

Harrison: The taxes aren’t doing so well. What are they being spent on?
 The poor are not receiving a lot of welfare. There aren’t enough things to go around as we are supplying big industries and they are big enough and rich enough to manage themselves.

There should be more homeless shelters in the UK and around the globe.

Real estate prices are over inflated compared to Scotland. Why is that? And our economy is not very good either.

The landlords don’t pay attention to the houses they own and don’t care and they don’t notice that there are empty houses. We need to start letting people live in them.

We have a lot of houses and they are going to waste. We should have a service that goes to these old houses and if we deem that the landlords don’t care for those houses we should confiscate them and have a service owned by government to clean them up and let people live in them

Luca: I would give the poor more money. I would give the homeless homes. I would spend money on what materials they need for homes and tell builders to just build them, it’s not hard to do. Why don’t they just tell them to build them for the homeless?

Politicians

Naomi: When countries and big people fight like wars they should have time out and say sorry like kids do.

If they don’t they should lose marbles and not get treats like stuff other countries have that their people like… like bananas and stuff. Be nice to the countries that give you bananas or you don’t get any.

Chloe: Why does the Prime Minister and politicians get more money than doctors and teachers? 

They get all that money and make stupid decisions. It is unfair that they get expenses and they should have to learn how to use their own money to pay for things.

Harrison: Politicans can be straight up annoying and stupid. They need to do a lot of work to get their priorities straight. 

Luca: Why don’t politicians make it law to be nice to old people? Some of them might be lonely. They shouldn’t be and there should be websites for them to meet friends and talk to each other. 

Most of all if I could be Prime Minister I would only be it for a day and let Jeremy Corbyn be Prime Minister. 
He’s really nice and he has cool ideas and better ideas than me.

Let’s Reclaim Our Public Space For Childhood By Kelly Grehan 

By Kelly Grehan

Barely a day goes by without my hearing a member of the older generation decrying the children of today:

“We never used to sit in on devices all day”

“All they want to do is stare at screens”

“We used to spend all day outside.”

It is as if children today are of a different species from their senior relatives, who speak of some sort of famous five style childhood. 

While I strongly suspect their memories of the past are somewhat rose tinted I also strongly suspect one reason children do not play outside is that they simply are not welcome.

In my own area (Dartford), many of the green spaces we played on in the early 90s are now occupied with signs saying things such as ‘no ball games’ or ‘this is not a play area’ and have been filled in with bushes to stop any fun activity taking place.

Although we are fortunate to have several good parks in our area, taking children to the park is a time consuming business and not one that can be done every evening for most children.  

When children used to ‘play out’ the benefits were multiple: children made friends with the same children who shared their streets, developing close bonds, isolation was therefore less, the feeling of belonging, and community was embedded and the benefits of being outdoors are well known. 

Dozens of studies from around the world show regular time outdoors produces significant improvements in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, fighting obesity, improved learning ability, and creativity and better emotional well being.

Unstructured play in the outdoors has also been shown to boost problem-solving skills, focus and self-discipline. Socially, it improves cooperation, flexibility, and self-awareness.

However, the disconnect with nature is now so strong that more children are taken to hospital having fallen out of bed than out of a tree. 

In fact one fifth of all children report never having ever attempted to climb a tree and a similar number have never visited a farm.

 And it not just outdoor space often denied to children now, with libraries lost in many towns along with community centres, church halls and youth clubs, for those whose parents are unable to afford expensive activity groups childhood can often be a lonely and boring time.  

This is coupled with the fact increasing numbers of children are now living in overcrowded accommodation and so, do not even have the luxury of being able to play imaginative games inside. 

What are we doing to our children? 

Is the epidemic of mental health and anxiety problems in the young a coincidence? 

I say a community ignoring the needs of children is no community at all.  

New housing estates seem to be built on the premise that grass verges are all the public green space that is needed. 

How about a space based along the idea of a village green in the centre? 

How about spaces which encourage den building and where ball games are encouraged? 

What is the worse that could happen?

Maybe the odd window will be broken, perish the thought, but I tell you this, it is much easier and cheaper to fix broken windows than broken adults who are the result of miserable childhoods. 

Our children have enough problems to contend with poverty, exams, school work, peer pressure, cyber bullying and knowing they are growing up in a world where they are likely to be worse off than their parents. Trying to keep them from public spaces is just another way we fail to enrich them.  


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Family Court Decisions Are Breaking My Child By The Masked Avenger

Author Anonymous 

Children in the UK are struggling with emotions and left voiceless whilst their parents fight it out in front of a judge in family court. 

My experience is children’s wishes and wellbeing are actually ignored in favour of the child having a relationship with both parents. 

Don’t get me wrong I am all for children having a relationship with both parents but when it distresses, upsets and harms our children where do we turn to?

Until they reach age 10 a child is practically voiceless in a family court. 

The court will and does disregard the child and discredit any emotions the child shows just because the judge feels they know best. They do not. 

In my experience the child was left needing a lot of therapy,  very withdrawn and distressed. The child spoke to me time and time again begging, crying, saying “why won’t they listen to me?”

That’s a good question. We are all human and we all are supposed to have ‘human rights ‘ yet a court is willing to destroy a child because they believe it is best for a child to have the contact which they grant everyday. They go home to their comfortable lives and what about the child? They are left crying, with questions that the parent cannot answer, they are left emotionally harmed with nightmares and being packed off to the other parent . 

The suffering that a child goes through is immense. We are in a world where we are dictated to enough without our children being forced to have contact. I have had a child crying on the floor, sobbing because they do not want to leave and all I can do is say  ” I know you don’t want to go, I know this is upsetting you but you must go”.

I fought for a few years in family court for my child to have their voice heard. Nobody heard them and I am the one who picks them up everyday when their emotions are all over the place. I am the one who comforts and tries to make the best of a bad situation.
I feel that the courts need to ‘judge’ each case individually and actually listen to the children. I’m all for a balanced view and equal relationship with both parents if the child is happy with that. 

Why are we breaking the children of the UK?

Why do we dismiss them?

Childhood is a precious time meant for building up a child not breaking them down.

Children’s mental health is so important and I’m not saying let a child have their own way but when a child tells you time and time again they do not want to have contact; we the parent are pretty powerless because the court does not listen.

We are at risk of having a lot of children with self esteem issues and anxiety because the one who holds the power is a judge who despite reports by many will disregard them in an instant. 

We need to listen to the children because they grow up and we don’t need any more damaged adults on the hands of an already stretched mental health services.


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Theresa May: Childcare Thief

In what world is it ok to forcibly sell somebody else’s product and then refuse to give the original owner what it cost for that product? I’m going to use an analogy most parents like me will appreciate: wine!

Imagine the scenario: I walk into the corner shop with my friend after promising to buy her a bottle of wine, I pick up a nice hearty red costing £6.30, take it to the counter and tell the shop worker that I’m only paying £5 for the wine. The store owner comes along to tell me that they can’t sell the wine at this price because they couldn’t continue to run an effective business, meet the cost of wages, overheads etc if they were to do so. I leave the £5 on the counter, take the wine, give it to my friend as the kind gift I originally offered.

Would you expect either the friend or shop owner to be happy with this outcome? No!

Sure, your friend now has a bottle of wine which they’ve not had to pay for but they feel guilty, in some way responsible for the injustice which has been committed against the shop owner. They might want to pay the difference but be unable to. They might want to give the wine back and go without.

While my friend is making her decision, the police have also been called as what I have done is clearly theft. There’s no ambiguity here; I just stole from the corner shop.

But what if it wasn’t wine? What if it was childcare which was promised as a gift? What if you can’t offer to pay the difference or give the ‘gift’ back to the business owner because without it you can’t afford to work or cover your own bills and outgoings? What then?

This is exactly what is happening all over the country. How is it ok?

A product (childcare), has been forcibly taken and handed out to thousands of families across the country as a nice gift, but the providers are not being given the going rate for their service leaving them on average 20% short.

This isn’t a gift, it’s theft!

Like the shop owner, the nurseries should call the police, right? Unfortunately, the perpetrators in this instance, the thieves, the villain, is the government of this country and there is nothing the victims of this theft can do.

The Telegraph has today reported: “One in five providers surveyed by the National Day Nurseries Association, a childcare charity, are not offering the free 30 hours because they say they cannot afford it. And more than half of those that are participating in the scheme are having to increase parents’ costs.”

The Pre-school Learning Alliance conducted a survey of childcare providers in March 2017 which showed similar results: “Less than half of providers [are] currently planning to roll out the offer, and a quarter saying that it is “likely” they will close”.

The situation is set to get worse. The government’s plan to freeze early years funding until 2019-20 will leave us with an even bigger problem on our hands. Childcare providers will feel the squeeze even more as running costs continue to rise with inflation whilst funding does not.

If everyone is happy with the nation’s children being looked after by the least experienced and qualified staff to keep down staffing costs. Happy with younger, even less experienced staff, to avoid paying the so-called ‘living wage’. Happy with buildings and equipment being updated and maintained less regularly. Happy for lower cost materials, foods, nappies to be used for our children during their most important years developmentally, then we have no problem here. I expect for most people, they wouldn’t be happy for any of these things to become commonplace.

Dear friend, don’t offer me a bottle of wine (especially in order to buy my friendship) if you can’t afford to buy a bottle of wine. Or at least humbly admit that you’re unable to follow through on your kind offer, but please don’t steal the wine.

Dear Conservative Government, don’t offer to provide me with 30 hours free childcare (especially to compete with Ed Milliband’s Labour promise and win my vote) if you can’t afford to pay for 30 hours of childcare at the going rate. Or at least humbly admit that you’re unable to follow through on your kind offer, but please don’t steal the childcare.