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

My Letter To The PM About My Child’s Mental Health Got An Unexpected Response 

By Lisa Mulholland

I am an autism mum and I get ‘political’ sometimes. 

It is difficult not to be when current waiting times for an autism assessment in North West Kent is between 2 and 3 years due to NHS cuts and over the years has varied between 1-2 years. This is frustrating and can really affect an autistic child’s life as diagnosis means children get support they desperately need in school. Well for now anyway as schools all over the country are having their budgets slashed, meaning many Teaching Assistants will no longer have jobs. Terrible for the teachers but a disaster for the children who so heavily rely on support staff.

The school budget for my child’s school alone is also set to be slashed by £72,000 by the year 2019. And I dread to think about how many children will feel the fallout of this.

For me once I finally got a diagnosis for my eldest I was unaware that the battle had only just begun and it took 4 years from seeking an autism diagnosis to finding the right primary school setting. 
Anxiety, school refusal and mental health issues became a barrier to my son’s education and eventually his overall quality of life. It started aged 6 with self- harm and progressed into suicidal tendencies by the time he reached the age of 10. 

Although shocking, my son is not a one-off case. While autism itself IS NOT a mental health condition, 71% of children who have autism develop mental health conditions, according to the NAS. * 

Compare this to non-autistic children where the figure for developing a mental health condition is around 10% and you have a staggering 61% difference that cannot be ignored. ** 

When I had reached the end of my tether with new battles arising after two failed secondary school placements in the space of 3 months, due to my son’s panic attacks, self- harm and absolute emotional breakdown I put pen to paper. 

Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) had rejected us from their service a total of 6 times, so we had an escalating mental health issue that no one would treat. 

I literally had nowhere to turn so when I was given a glimmer of hope of prospective specialist school that could cater to my son’s high academic ability, I was overjoyed. There are not many schools like it and he was deemed too ‘bright’ for other specialist schools.

But he was initially rejected by the school, so another simultaneous battle ensued. Eventually they agreed to let me son have a trial day. 

The night before the trial he burst into tears and said, ” Why do I have to be autistic, I just want a normal life, I just want to go to school and hang out with my mates” before having a panic attack and physically harming himself many times throughout the night. 

That night I wanted to complain to someone. But I didn’t know where to start. So, I started with David Cameron who was the Prime Minister at the time. 


I was desperate, heartbroken and angry all at once but when I finished writing, I felt a sense of relief that I had got it off my chest. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it, but a friend of mine read it and was moved by it. She had a political group on Facebook and we decided to share it. 

I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. 

My letter kept being shared and people started commenting about how they could relate to it and I was being spurred on to continue my battle by people I had never met.  

Then I was contacted by a BBC journalist who was interested in my story. 

I was apprehensive at first, but after much deliberation and assurance from The BBC we agreed to do it. We felt we had nothing to lose and wanted to speak out about mental health and felt if we could help just one other family the. It was worth it.

The BBC staff came to our home so that we were comfortable and were very sensitive and respectful. The staff were so moved by our story that they offered my son a treat to visit the studios and watch the editing process. The staff spoke to him about anxiety in the workplace and gave us some hope when we felt there was none.

We appeared on BBC Inside Out and the Health Correspondent took my letter straight to the Director of CAMHS Kent and Sussex Partnership.

To see my letter being addressed by the Director on the BBC was surreal but it encouraged other friends’ children in the similar situations to speak out about their mental health issues. Just that alone for me feel like I had made a positive difference.

Just when I was about to lose all hope, a letter and a political group help give me a second wind to fight some more. It helped us push the services some more, fight for mental health treatment and fight for a school placement. 

We were then invited onto radio and Victoria Derbyshire to speak about our issues and 18 months later are still in contact with the staff at BBC South East. 
They were personally touched by our plight and are now delighted to hear of the progress my son has made. 


He is no longer plagued by his anxiety (albeit still present) he now has a quality of life that everyone is entitled to. The school listened to my case and gave him a chance. He is now the happiest he has ever been in his life because he is in a school setting that caters to his academic and social and emotional needs and finally got the CAMHS treatment he desperately needed. 

He is excelling in subjects that I never thought he would attempt and he no longer has panic attacks. We are able to manage his anxiety and mental health issues.

None of this would have happened if I hadn’t been so compelled to ‘get political’.

I want to continue to make other parents in similar situations aware that the difficulties and frustrations many parents feel with a lack of services to support their children whether it be NHS waiting lists, CAMHS waiting lists or lack of school support is a political issue.  People need to be held to account and we should never feel silenced.

The buck stops with the government and sometimes direct action needs to be taken to let the voices of our children be heard. And above all we should never take no for an answer. 

Sources: 

National Autistic Society “You Need to Know Campaign” 

Mental Health Foundation 

To read the actual Letter that was sent to the PM please click here: 

https://theavengeruk.com/2017/09/18/my-open-letter-to-the-pm-about-how-austerity-affected-my-childs-mental-health/

Family Life: The Biggest Casualty of Modern UK Culture By Kelly Grehan

By Kelly Grehan

 

Barely a day goes by without me hearing some mention of Britishness and British values. There seems to be an acceptance by some that Britain is the envy of the world. I have never been sure what this is based on.

What sums up modern British life? What are the central focuses of our culture? I’d argue money, work and the pursuit of status are what our daily lives and almost all of our time are filled with.  

I visited Holland this summer and could not help but notice how much more relaxed the Dutch way of life seems to be as oppposed to here, where many of us feel our days are about trying to cram in as much as possible. The expectation is to be a conscientious employee, always on time, never be unreliable, strive to climb the career ladder at the same time as being an involved parent, never missing a school play or sports match. keep a perfect house and helping with homework and all manner of other things. But although we might not like to admit it, our value base in this country is about putting money ahead of family life and happiness. 

We are preached to that our status is based upon our (material) assets, people seem to long to tell you how much their car/holiday/phone/home cost, and expect you to be impressed.  

There often appears to be a badge of honour in how many hours you work over what you are contracted; almost as if the company might collapse without us and many of us are forced to waste hours every week sitting in traffic jams or awaiting delayed trains as we commute to jobs far from our homes. Rising costs of living and stagnant wages leave many of us feeling stressed about making ends meet.     

But does it have to be like this? I’d argue not and that the way of life we have here can be changed. Denmark and Norway won the first and second places in this year’s World Happiness Report.  

What’s different about them? Well, both Denmark and Norways’ cultures prioritise experiences over material goods and strive for equality. They have relatively small wealth gaps and friendships are seen as a value. Both nations cherish sharing activities with friends and family.

In the Norwegian language there is even a word for helping each other without being paid;  ‘dugnad’. 

Occasions where everyone contributes their time and skills for the good of the neighbourhood is seen as vital for the good of all. Similarly, Danes might pay extortionate amounts in tax, but this has given them a sense of cohesion; everyone having a stake and everyone getting something back. Unlike here where post compulsory education without being linked to career aspirations is regarded as an extravagance, most Danes take weekly evening classes, all free at the point of receiving them. How many of our lives would be enriched if that were the case here?

One reason people in Denmark have time for enrichment is that they simply do not work the hours we do. The average working week in the UK is now 43.6 hours compared with a European average of 40.3 hours. Danish workers work an average of 26 hours and Norwegians 33.  

One of the sad things about our culture, in my view, is the failure of us as a society to put family life first and the impact it has our children.  

The World Health Organisation (WHO) last year conducted a study of children across 44 countries. The results made for grim reading, It found Britain’s 15-year-olds are suffering due to ‘pressure at school, feeling fat and drinking too much.’ They were less likely to report ‘good life satisfaction’ than their foreign counterparts.  

73% of girls and 52% of boys in England felt pressured by school work, significantly higher than the average of 51% of girls and 39% of boys across all countries. 

While 50% of girls and 25% of boys in England think they are too fat, higher than the average 43% for girls and 22% for boys across all countries.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers have consistently argued that the mental health of children as young as six is being blighted by exam stress. We have increasing numbers of young people self harming and suffering from anxiety and stress. Although there are many reasons for this, I would argue the culture in this country which judges everyone, regardless of age on their possessions and status is at least partly to blame. Children are judged on their test scores, their school’s place in the league tables, their clothes, their family status, where they live and all manner of other things that should not be important. So, it is no wonder, like British adults, so many children cannot escape the feeling they are not good enough.

What about if Britain had a culture where employers encouraged and helped promote family life and other activities? What about if when meeting people for the first time we asked people about their hobbies and interests instead of where they live and what we do for a living? 


What about if spending time doing community based activities was the norm? What about if we judged each other by our actions and nothing else – not appearance or status or possessions?

I think we would all be much happier. Isn’t that what we should strive for as a culture rather than the best GDP or the most millionaires?  

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