Workers and students battle education stress

take the stress out of studying

By a Take the Stress Out of Studying campaign activist

Too many of us (students, workers, parents, etc.) are under a lot of pressure from our existing education system. Factors of stress include: exam pressure, workload, petty discipline, cuts to support services, low pay, you name it.

Hence, students, parents and education workers met together to discuss how to counter that stress at a meeting hosted mainly by Joe Booth, Hackney Central Labour Party’s new Youth Officer, on 7 July in east London. The meet-up was structured very informally, with four speakers and then group discussions.

Joe opened the event by explaining the background to and initiative of the campaign Take The Stress Out of Studying (TSOS). The idea to start it was originally sparked by the suicide of one of Joe’s 16-year-old family friends, and also by the many stresses he had experienced at his former school, Mossbourne Community Academy: workload, authoritarianism and exam preparation. Everything else about TSOS can be found here: www.tsos.blog.

The second speaker, Mandy Hudson, disabled teachers’ representative on the Executive of the NUT section of the National Education Union, outlined how the Education Reform Act of 1988 had started the process by which education has become more and more pressured. This Act introduced the national curriculum, local management of schools and a new, stricter testing regime, and was later followed by more laws introducing more tests, targets and tables, and then academisation.

The third speaker, Ana Oppenheim, higher education student from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), spoke about stress and a mental health crisis in universities and colleges. Examples of that stress include inadequate support services, tuition fees and student debt.

And the fourth speaker, Obi Saiq spoke about his plans as the newly-elected Youth Officer of Hackney South and Shoreditch Constituency Labour Party, and about how he found the school system when he went to school. Plans are being developed to build a Young Labour group in Hackney South, based on campaigning on issues such as student stress as well as solidarity with young workers such as the local Picturehouse strikers. Obi also went to Joe’s old school, Mossbourne, and specifically mentioned how alienating, unhealthy and unequal he found the school environment, e.g. through the setting and streaming system, which specially maintains class orthodoxy among students.

Then, three separate groups discussed issues and ideas especially relevant to them: youth and students; higher education; and local Labour Party activists (all adults). The youth and students spoke about ways to radicalise and unionise young students to get involved in both politics and campaigning; one useful method we discussed was school walkouts.

It was particularly useful for students and trade unionists in each sector of education to make contact with each other. These contacts will lead to further activities and campaigning. And they will also help to rid education of all of its stresses by creating a better and broader alternative.

Not as many people attended this particular meeting as we would have liked – ten in total – but it did clash with England’s unexpected appearance in the World Cup quarter final, as well as with Pride, NCS (National Citizenship Service) and some very sunny weather!

Nonetheless, campaigners are discussing ways of organising events and activities which teenagers feel comfortable attending (which may even be organised by young people themselves).

If you want information about getting involved or have any questions to ask, just email tsos.socialism@outlook.com and we’ll answer absolutely anything.

Let us know what you think? Write a reply? Email theclarionmag@gmail.com

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