British Values

I’m getting a bit sick of hearing the phrase “British Values”, it’s such a none phrase but it’s seemingly everywhere at the moment. First the government were prescribing that they must be taught in schools, then we were told immigrants must sign up to them and yesterday I saw someone on the news saying that the Muslim faith needs to abide by them. But what even are they? According to ofsted they are:

Democracy
The rule of law
Individual Liberty and Mutual Respect
Tolerance of different faiths and beliefs

Democracy

I’m told that one of the core British Values is democracy. Which is a bit of a joke,  if we’re being honest. We don’t even live in one! We have some element of democracy to our constitutional monarchy but the system isn’t truly democratic.

We have an elected first house, so that’s a good start, but then we have an upper house filled with unelected landed gentry, appointed supporters of this and previous governments and bishops. A true democracy would have a wholly elected second house.

Then there’s the head of state,  again an unelected position that gives the hereditary power to veto any government decision.

If democracy is a true British value, can we have one please?

The rule of law

This is a ridiculous statement. We have laws in this country, but so does almost every other country. We certainly didn’t invent the rule of law and I’d wager that the majority of those in the country who don’t respect the rule of law are brits. This is a noble value,  but not one we can claim a monopoly on.

Individual liberty and mutual respect

So the Conservative government believe that we should teach this as a value and encourage newcomers to our country to buy into it, yet are currently implementing the snoopers charter, the biggest threat to individual liberty ever seen? Am I the only one who smells hypocrisy there?

As for mutual respect,  senior tories have labelled teachers “dealers in despair” and “enemies of promise”. They’ve attacked the workforce and worker’s rights and shown no respect for people in poverty.

I’d agree these are great values to hold, I just  wish the government that preaches them would hold them.

Tolerance of different faith and beliefs

I’ll just let that one sink in. The British government want incoming faiths to change their practices to uphold British Values, and one of those values is to tolerate different faiths and beliefs.

The phrasing of it is ridiculous. Tolerate means to put up with something, surely we should be celebrating the fact that the UK is diverse and multicultural?

I was abhorred recently by the viral video that showed three 13 year olds beating up a 12 year old, but I was more abhorred by the way people used it to try and stir up racial hatred. I’ve worked in schools where the student population was 99% white, and schools that show a roughly even split between white and Asian students. I’ve known this type of attack to happen more than once, and the majority of the time it is white on white. Often over a girl, more often because someone grew up on the wrong, but neighbouring, housing estate.

The sad truth is that many British people won’t tolerate other British people who hold the same faith or belief because they are from somewhere different. The EDL protests against mosques and synagogues show that too many British people don’t hold this so called British Value, the prime ministers recent comments about a return to our “Christian heritage” and the law that bans a Catholic from holding the office of prime minister suggest that as a society we’re far from secure in this British value.

All four of these suggested British Values are fantastic to aspire to, and I’d love to live in a society that upholds them. Unfortunately I don’t,  but I do live in Britain,  so I’m left questioning,  “are they even British Values?”

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An End to GCSEs?

Today Tristram Hunt has tabled a motion to put Education above Political Point-Scoring and to work together towards a better future for all. Here’s a post I wrote giving my views on his ideas from before the election, a lot of which he has brought up as ideas he’d like to discuss.

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This article was originally published on Labour Teachers here.

This week Tristram Hunt postulated in the Guardian that a Labour government may look to phase out GCSEs all together. if you didn’t catch the article, have a look here.

It’s an interesting article, and I have to say I like some of the things he’s saying. Firstly, he’s ruling out radical quick reform. This is something that has been playing on my mind, after 4 years of Gove’s fast paced reformation I feel we need time to let it embed. We haven’t assessed the new GCSEs or A Levels yet and won’t for a few years, and I feel it is right to let this take place given the work that is already underway. I happen to think the new maths curricula are in fact better than the old ones so am looking forward to teaching the new…

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Whatever’s Left?

Back in February I went to see Billy Bragg (@billybragg) play at an event organised by The People’s Assembly (@pplsassembly) against the Coalition governments austerity policies. The event on the whole was amazing,  Billy was awesome as ever, The Farm (@TheFarm_Peter) did a guest spot, a fantastic local Manchester band (the name escapes me, if you know it please let me know and I’ll ammend) opened the show and I discovered an artist who has fast become one of my favourites.

Her name is Grace Petrie (@gracepetrie) and she plays a politically fulled folk punk style (check out her website here). Her set in the night blew us away and the next day I ordered a CD of hers entitled “Mark my words” which has rarely left the CD player of my car since. The whole family love it, to the extent that while most 2 year olds walk around singing “Twinkle Twinkle” or “Let it go” mine sings “The revolution will not be televised” and “Emily Davison Blues“! Mark my words is a phenomenal album, and I’d suggest everyone give it a listen and purchase a copy.

A few weeks later we ordered “Tell me a story” which is another superb album, and the song “Farewell to welfare” contains some of the most mature and poignant lines I’ve ever heard in any song. Which is quite amazing considering Grace must only have been in her early 20s when it was written.

This weekend an eagerly awaited package fell through the door. It contained “Whatever’s left” – Grace’s brand new album, and one she promised was her most political yet. It is a stark commentary on the life of a young person in Coalition Britain and certainly suggests a worrying future now the Tories have everything their own way.

This is possibly the strongest in “You pay peanuts you get monkeys“, which includes the refrain “you pay peanuts you get monkeys you pay nothing you get nowt.” And such lines as: “workers of the world stand up and leave them in no doubt, a living wage for workers or we’ll vote you bastards out.”

The song “Revolutionary in the Wrong Time” alludes to the decline in workers rights we’ve seen and how toothless we are to protect what little we have left – “I heard a rumour there was power in the Unions but that was yesterday.” And that was written before the tories started their new attacks.

The songs “Overheard” and “I do not have the power to cause a flood” speak out against the bigotry and inequality that is unfortunately all too rife in today’s society.

The title song “Whatever’s left” encapsulates Grace’s anger at what has gone and is perhaps summed up best with the line “It’s like a bad dream, when I see the mess that the bastards made of the NHS”.

As with the other two albums, it’s not all political songs, and “Ivy” written about her new born nice is an amazing ode to family and love.

As with the other 2 Grace Petrie albums I own, I cannot fault a single song. The album is fantastic from start to finish – and in my opinion even better than its predecessors. If you’ve never listen to Grace, I urge you to do so. She’s a phenomenal talent, with an inspirational world view who’s doing it herself, without a label of any sort, in true punk style.

Labour Leadership – Nominations Close Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the last day that Labour MPs can nominate leadership candidates. Currently three candidates  (Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendal) have received the 35 nominations needed to be included in the debate and on the ballot. Mary Creagh has withdrawn from the contest so the only candidate left who has yet to receive the 35 nominations is Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn is the candidate who is positioned furthest to the left of the party and is the only one who has taken an anti – austerity stance. He has currently got the backing of 21 MPs but needs 14 more by tomorrow.

I think it would be a real shame if Corbyn wasn’t to make it onto the ballot. There are many, vocal,  members on the left if the party calling for his inclusion and there are many disillusioned supporters or former supporters who see Corbyn as the leader that they could support. The other three cover the centre (Burnham and Cooper) and the right (Kendal) of the party so including a candidate to cover the left of the party would at least give them a voice in the leadership hustings and the wider debate.

I look forward to the debate, to see where the Labour party are heading and what they plan to do in opposition. I’m not sure who I’d like to lead them, I’m waiting for the debate ti rake place, although I’m certainly leaning towards Corbyn and definitely wouldn’t want Kendal, in fact I often wonder why she even joined the Labour party when she seems much more aligned politically to the Tories.

We all need Feminism

I have just seen one of the most vile memes I have ever come across. The title is “I need Feminism like a godammned hole in the head” and it contains a number of pictures of a woman holding slogans such as
“I need Feminism because I too stupid to think for myself” and “I need Feminism because protests make me feel important.” To top it off the person sharing it had included the caption “This chick gets it.”

I find it incredulous that anyone could think Feminism was anything other than a good thing. The very definition of Feminism is a desire for equality between the sexes. The desire to see men and women treated equally, hold equal station in life, in relationships, in work. To be paid the same and given the same benefits.

Feminism brought us out of the dark ages, people fought, and died, to give women the vote. People gave up a lot to grant women equal pay. A fight led by trade unions that is actually still going on to this day.

I’m at a loss to see how anyone can see equality as a bad thing, and as such I’m at a loss to see how anyone can see Feminism as a bad thing.

We still haven’t achieved an equal society, that saddens me and shows me that Feminism is still an extremely important, and necessary,  movement. I’m proud to call myself a feminist.

A Political Education

Here’s a post I wrote in the run up to the election about the lack of political education that seems prevalent in today’s schools.

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This post was first published here on Labour Teachers on 19th April 2015

Monday is the last day you can register to vote, which means I have spent a large portion of the week checking in with my year 13 class and my year 13 form group that they have registered. This has led to various discussions around politics, how they can decide who to vote for etc. It seems a lot of young people take on the political views of their parents. I was pleased to hear a number of them had actually downloaded the manifestos of the major parties and we’re using them to help them decide. I was shocked, however, at how many of them knew very little about any of it.

One asked if she could vote for Barack Obama. One asked if we were choosing a new queen. One thought Ed Miliband was the prime…

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