After the government’s U-turn on GCSE and A-level moderation, widespread celebration has broken out among student and teaching communities alike. But, drowned out by the cheering, a yet unsolved problem remains: the injustice and uncertainty for those taking BTECs, who have been left behind in the race to secure places at chosen further and higher education institutions.
Last week, young people across Scotland reached the end of years of schooling and were presented with their final grades. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, these results were based not on a summer exam series, but on predicted grades from teachers and subsequent moderation by examining bodies. As many as a quarter of grades were lowered, hitting working-class pupils in poorer regions and schools the hardest. Further south, A level and GCSE students are still awaiting similarly-calculated results, due for release on the 13th and 20th of August respectively. But, with individual pupils’ futures at the mercy of wildly varying school averages, the most disadvantaged students are facing even more barriers to higher education.
by Laura Potts
The TARDIS programme at Chapel Break Infant School is an exemplary example of creative education and an inspirational learning environment. For 10 years, the programme has transformed classrooms into imaginative environments for young minds to explore and develop in. TARDIS stands for ‘Thinking Arts Reflective Dialogue Imagination Studio’. The aim of its resourceful staff is to immerse the children in philosophical and creative enquiry:
‘The learning consists of the development of a range of skills, including speaking and listening, debate and discussion, a variety of thinking skills, social skills, independence of thought and action and persistence. It builds a knowledge and experience of the visual arts beyond those that can be offered within the usual classroom setting.’
by Hannah Rose
Outside Selfridges on Oxford street at 5am Boxing Day morning, a queue had already formed. The sales could not start soon enough for some shoppers. At the same time, Aleksander’s father was waking his son up. He handed him a pile of thermal underwear and a hard hat and told him to get ready so they could go and ‘explore’ the site.
“Can I really see where you are working, dad!?”
“Of course, but you will have to stay in the cabin for a while as I have some large girders to move with the crane. If you stay in there you can watch out of the window. Bring your tablet and learn some English words while you wait, ok?”
by Hannah Rose
Later that night after Aleksander and his father had eaten too much food and watched a few films, and when Aleksander was asleep on the sofa, his father switched on the tablet and opened his emails. One was from his boss, the ops manager, and had an attachment. Do I need to read this now? He thought. Better to know what that tool has to say now, than worry about it all night. The email read:
by Hannah Rose
“What do you mean you sacked my team?” Aleksander’s father said to his boss, the operations manager late on Christmas Eve when he finally called him back. “It’s the day before Christmas and we were already behind schedule.”
“Look, mate,” the ops manager said. “the pound has taken a nosedive since Brexit, and your lot were asking for double their hourly rate, and expecting a Christmas bonus.”
“ ‘Your lot’” Aleksander’s father chastised.
The ops manager didn’t hear him.
“I’ve got the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi on my back threatening to pull the whole thing and leave a bunch of half built hotels in Battersea and a whole company of British workers made redundant if I don’t balance the books and get this thing sorted. I did you a favour by keeping you on. I had to let them go and get things level again. Otherwise there might have been a mutiny—sabotage—and how would that look for you, eh?”
‘You did me a favour’ Aleksander’s father silently repeated, bitterly.
“And what about my lot who have no money to send home this month?” He asked.
“Look, mate, we have to look after our own in this post Brexit world of ours. If you get the main building looking relatively ship shape by January 1st and the Sheikh is happy then I will consider bringing the Poles back for phase 2 of the project.”
“But why at Christmas?!” Aleksander’s father was desperate.
“Well it isn’t Christmas for the bloody Sheikh, is it?—he’s an Arab!”
by Hannah Rose
The PM placed the Impact Assessment on Effects on Building Site Managers carefully down in front of her, crossed her arms and looked to her cabinet. “This Christmas,” she said, “you all have homework to do.” I’d like you to read this Impact Assessment, inside out, and all the others, by the 1st January 2018.”
“Every single one ma’am?” The minister for education said, timidly.
“Every single one,” She replied. “And don’t call me ma’am. I’m not the queen—or Margaret Thatcher, God rest her soul.”
by Hannah Rose
Christmas in England this year made a festive looking smokescreen for the dirtiest of politics. Whilst civilians were stripping the shelves of Lidl of pickles, the PM and her cabinet were negotiating terms for exiting Europe for good—no one would see them slink away through the back door. In mid December the Brexit Impact Assessments, which had taken up most of civil service’s working week throughout the year, sat in a sagging pile on the Cabinet’s round table, resembling the Christmas cake which no one actually likes but must stay there reminding everyone of the hard effort some relative put in to making it. “Who has actually read these?” the PM asks. Silence, except for the shuffle of feet. She picks up the top file between her forefinger and thumb and waves it at the men sitting around her. “Has anyone read” –she pauses to peer at the title—“’Effects on Self-employed Building Site Managers’?” The Defence Secretary coughs and offers a response.
“That isn’t my area ma’am.”
“Esteemed colleagues,” the PM says to her cabinet, not unkindly. “Brexit is everyone’s area.”
by Janice Miller
Being the new kid at school has always been hard, and schoolyard bullies have existed since there were schools. But bullying has evolved over time and the majority of it now exists online. One of the main problems that children face these days is online harassment – also known as cyberbullying. This form of bullying can be extremely potent because the harassment is often anonymous and can be spread to hundreds of people in a matter of minutes. Here are some tips for parents on how to help your child if they’re facing this situation.
If you find out your child is being cyberbullied – either from them or from reading their texts/social media messages – the first thing you should do it react appropriately. Don’t overreact and ban them from the internet, or go on a tirade in front of their friends. Don’t under-react by saying that it’s just what kids do and they must learn to get over it. Both of these approaches will only make -the problem worse. React appropriately by letting them know that you understand their situation, you think it’s serious, it’s not their fault, and you will help them get through it.
Tweak privacy settings
Most social media sites and blogging sites where cyberbullying often occurs have tons of privacy options that you can use to help thwart a cyberbully. Block any users that are bullying your child on their Facebook, Instagram, or Tumblr accounts. Report abuse.
Talk to the appropriate authorities
You’re doing your child no favors by keeping their cyberbullying under lock and key. You should contact your child’s school and see if they can intervene. If the cyberbullying is severe and contains threats of violence or extreme invasion of privacy (posting sensitive information about your child, leaking hacked materials) then you should certainly contact the police. Cyberbullying.org notes that parents of cyberbullies may become defensive and confrontational if presented with evidence of their child’s activities, so it pays to be careful in this regard.
Create a healthy home environment for your child
Focus on the elements that you can control – for example creating a healthy, stress-free environment at home. Make sure your home is clean and de-cluttered. Practice healthy habits with your family, like a good diet and a focus on getting enough exercise. Redfin.com notes that natural light in the home plays a key role in overall happiness and wellbeing, so keep your curtains open and spend a lot of time with your kids in the backyard.
Finally, you want to create a home environment where communication is open and honestly is rewarded. The best tool you have to help your child fight against cyberbullying is knowledge, and you can’t know what your child feels if they don’t feel comfortable talking to you about it. Withhold judgment, overreaction, and any punishment for their online activities. Simply listen and offer help.
Teach your child that they must be better than their bully
Your child must know that when they go to school, it’s paramount that they rise to a higher level than their bully. They should know that retaliation is never a good idea, as it often emboldens the bully and make them more aggressive. They should always be kind to everyone and do their best to ignore the bullying.
It’s unfortunate that kids these days have to deal with cyberbullying, but it’s a prevalent problem. Bullies aren’t going away, and neither is the internet – so this problem is likely here to stay. As a parent, it’s your job to keep communication lines open, intervene when necessary, and teach your children how to react to a bully.
Please note: The Norwich Radical and the author are not cyberbullying experts, nor do we presume to be taken as such. The above are suggestions from a contributing parent, and should not be considered the golden standard in the case of cyberbullying.
Featured image via Pixabay
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by Kev Walker
Content warning: mentions domestic violence, substance misuse, neglect and self-harm
He woke in the morning, as often he’d done
awake with the birds and the half risen sun.
The room was a tip, he hated it so
but to tidy takes time, it was time to go.
Throw on some clothes from off of the floor
kick his way through the grubby, knuckle-marked door.
Sneak down the staircase, dodging needles and glass
peer into the lounge, they’ll be easy to pass.
by Alex Valente
CW: racism, sexism, fascism
There’s an old home-grown metaphor that runs in the Italian side of my family – which may have been acquired by my great-grandfather through his context and peers, I just have never heard it anywhere else – which goes as follows:
Italy is a watermelon. The thick, green skin on the outside is democracy, the Republic. The thin white layer that keeps everything inside together is the Democrazia Cristiana (Christian Democracy, the centre party that governed Italy after WWII, and the ancestor of pretty much all centrist politicians since). The red pulp is the Socialist, Communist heart of the country. But the seed, the black seed from which it all grows – that’s Fascism.
by Laura Potts
The long standing debate regarding gendered school uniform has been raised once more in the news recently, when a number of students at Isca academy in Exeter chose the much cooler option of wearing a school skirt in the recent high temperatures. They were protesting the fact that students are not allowed to wear shorts.
This is not an isolated case, but one of several in recent months. One call centre worker in Buckinghamshire, for example, also chose to question his firm’s anti-shorts rules by wearing a dress, and his tweets about this act of defiance went viral. Protests like these partly reveal the rigidity that gendered uniform creates – but, contrary to what most coverage suggests, the issue goes much deeper than just whether schools allow shorts and skirts in hot weather.
by Laura Potts
As a fine art student, I spend my time surrounded by others engaged in creative practices or on creative career paths. However, as I’ve progressed through the first year of my degree I’ve noticed a major stigma attached to these paths. Even within my own arts university there is a perception that fine art students are less ‘realistic’ than those on other creative courses in the university, like graphic design or fashion. This perception, usually held by people who haven’t taken the time to ask fine art students and other creatives about our work, has spread widely through society. Modern artists do not warrant the same level of interest and respect as the great painter-philosophers of previous centuries.
by Laura Potts
Forget statistics, results and score tables – how much does the modern school system genuinely guide young minds toward a progressive and fulfilling future?
John Dewey, often called the father of modern western education, argued that raising children as obedient conformists, rather than individuals who think for themselves, is very dangerous for democratic society. In recent decades, generations of people have been brought up at a midpoint between these two extremes, raised to conform to individualism. This has provided support for dangerous social, environmental and political power structures which do not provide for the vital collectivist needs of our ever-more-globalised world.
by The Norwich Radical
2016 was a bleak year for many. Across the world, the forces of liberty, of social progress, and of environmental justice lost time and again in the face of rising fascism, increased alienation, and intensifying conflict. That notwithstanding, there have been moments of light. In the Austrian Presidential election, the electorate confirmed the independently Green candidate Alexander van der Bellen; the #noDAPL water protectors gained a soft victory in early December; in fact, there is a full list of positives from the past year, if you want cheering up.
2016 saw our team expand to more than 25 writers, editors, and artists as well as host our first ever progressive media conference, War of Words. Our readership has grown from 5,000 per month to more than 6,500 per month. In total, nearly 80,000 people have read content on The Norwich Radical website this year.
In 2017, The Norwich Radical will turn three years old, with plans to grow our team and publication more than ever before. We’ll also be returning to Norwich to bring debate and discussion on the future of the media, with War of Words back for a second year.
by Sam Naylor
Content warning: this article mentions homophobia and racism
“In Britain we use our history in order to comfort us, to make us feel stronger, to remind ourselves that we were always, always deep down, good people.” That was Neil MacGregor, the former director of the British Museum, describing Britain’s à la carte style of remembering at an exhibition opening in Berlin last month. This selective remembering is dangerous in itself, and when this approach is combined with current post-truth narratives Britain’s attitude to its past becomes very chaotic. Tracey Brown has argued that “the idea of a ‘post-truth society’ is elitist and obnoxious”, with good reason. But we need not apply this notion as all-or-nothing, without subtlety. Instead, we can understand a post-truth society as one that occasionally believes in emotive language and bombastic phrases over bland yet factual statements, rather than one which has ‘had enough of experts’ entirely.
by Jess Howard
Last week it was announced that AQA, the last exam board to offer art history as an A level subject, has removed the course from its curriculum. The decision to remove the subject from A Level course choices means future students will no longer be able to study the subject at this level. A spokesman from the board said that the decision to remove the subject had “nothing to do with the importance of history of art”, but I find this hard to believe.
by Teiowí:sonte Thomas Deer
Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory
When I was in Grade 2, I recall my teacher telling us a legend in class that I would hear many times later in my life. It was about this boy who lived long ago in a Kanien’kehá:ka village. While exploring around the river’s edge, he noticed two shiny things in the water. When he picked them up he discovered they were serpents – one gold and one silver. The serpents were barely alive and the boy returned home with them and nursed them back to health.
In time these serpents became healthy again and began to grow larger and larger. And as they grew, so did their appetites. The boy could no longer feed them enough so they began to consume the village’s food. The people of the village attempted to cast out the beasts, but by this point they had become too large to control and the serpents began to attack and consume the people of the village. Soon, the two serpents began to attack and plunder other villages. The people fled and made their way to the mountains. Pursuing the people, the two serpents smashed into mountains, poisoned the rivers, and ravished the earth.
by Olivia Hanks
Theresa May’s indication earlier this month that she will reintroduce selective schooling has reignited the debate on ‘social mobility’. Tory backbenchers believe the secondary modern system (or the grammar school system, as they insist on calling it) was good for social mobility, but various reports support the opposite view, that selective schooling entrenches inequality. Of the tiny percentage of children from working class backgrounds who attended the old grammar schools, two-thirds did not manage to achieve three O-levels.
“You can’t even use apostrophes.” I may not have always said it, but I’m certainly guilty of thinking it and similar things to do with punctuation, spelling, and grammar. Whether directed at someone during an online debate, or used to make yourself superior because someone else has bigoted views or an unfavourable political standpoint. Even in cases where someone is verbally attacking you and making personal comments, you’re not the better person for commenting on their intellect or education.
Here’s something that will make poetry sound a little more dangerous (but not really), and doesn’t involve tattooing Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ from your neck to your toes: it is said that the poets chosen for the UK’s prestigious poet laureateship are plagued with a curse.
That is to say, the poems written during a poet’s tenure as poet laureate – an honorary position in which there is no strict demand but certainly an expectation for the poet to write original poems for important national occasions – are sub-standard when read in light of poet’s earlier, or later, work.
When I was in my last year of primary school, I experienced the death of a pupil in the year below; her name was Demi. She had epilepsy and was known to have regular fits, but they were often manageable and not entirely life threatening if responded to sufficiently. I distinctly remember one lunch time as I headed towards the playground, that I passed by Demi having another fit. Teachers and paramedics cornered me off, so as not to make a bigger scene and I ran off to the playground to inform others. Of course we were all concerned, but were mostly pacified in the knowledge she was in the best possible care.
The next morning at school, my teacher informed us that Demi had died. She was only 10 years old — they had been unable to restart her heart. In that moment, I felt a level of responsibility. I saw her in her last moments and passed it off as another episode that would soon rectify itself to see Demi in good health. Counsellors came into school and assemblies were given, but they did nothing to attend to the hurt and regret I felt for not being able to do more. I know that Demi’s condition was never my immediate concern, but there was always that part of me that took on the blame for witnessing her final moments. For many pupils including myself, it was their first experience with death and consequently grief.
by Cadi Cliff
Wednesday was Budget Day and George Osborne set out plans for a huge shake-up of the schools system. He announced that schools in England must become academies, independent of local authorities, by 2020. It’s farewell to your old council-run comprehensive and hello to corporate sponsored academies — and no, you don’t get a say in the matter.
Along with junior doctor contracts, the majority of the public have not supported the government’s argument on academies — so the Tories have gone and imposed them anyway. Democracy, right?
by Mike Carey
Continued from part one, published on The Norwich Radical two weeks ago.
I hate to rake up ancient history, but here’s another example from a little further back – dredged up because in this case it is a writer of literary novels (Edward Docx, in the Observer in 2010) who’s saying this, so the agenda is maybe a little more naked.
Even good genre… is by definition a constrained form of writing. There are conventions and these limit the material. That’s the way writing works and lots of people who don’t write novels don’t seem to get this: if you need a detective, if you need your hero to shoot the badass CIA chief, if you need faux-feminist shopping jokes, then great; but the correlative of these decisions is a curtailment in other areas. If you are following conventions, then a significant percentage of the thinking and imagining has been taken out of the exercise. Lots of decisions are already made.
Considering that Docx rails against “a fundamental dishonesty” in the way this subject is usually discussed, I’m going to pick my words with care.
Borderlines is a collection of thought pieces, some creative, some direct accounts, some memoirs, all true. Borderlines collects stories from people who are not fleeing from one country to another, but rather chose to move, or were made to do so by a series of non-threatening circumstances. In these stories there is anger, hope, disappointment, joy, fear, optimism. They are all different, and yet all striking in their approach to the subject matter.
Borderlines aims to show the reality of migration, and how we are all, in our own way, migrants.
When the Conservatives came to power this year, without even the Liberal Democrats to soften the inevitable multiple blows, many artists buckled up for more difficult years. I’m not one to buy the starving artist cliché, but it’s a reality that in these times, where arts funding is being cut (despite receiving a proportionally meagre amount), that being any kind of artist is going to be a struggle. It also means that it is sold as a less viable career path for young people, and the arts are placed back in the hands of the wealthy elite.
Dear Tim Baker,
My name is Rowan Van Tromp, I am 22 years old and have spent the past academic year working as a teaching assistant at a secondary school in Norwich, following graduation from the University of East Anglia in June 2014.
After seeing Charlton Manor Primary School on the Channel 4 programme Jamie’s Sugar Rush, I was so inspired by the work you are doing, I have decided to write you a letter to share my own experiences with you and my strong advocacy of the model you are working to.
My teacher covers peanut brittle with a tea-towel
then takes a hammer and smashes it into pieces.
Like a magic trick, she whips the towel off and tells us
to each grab a shard. It is a lesson about fairness.
Atticus, he was real nice. – Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
the room is ripe with adolescent sweat
pressed periwinkle to our backs as flies swoon
in circuits around our teacher perched on a table
with her feet inches from the ground
and whoever is still awake quietly questions
her decision to imitate Calpurnia’s accent
Disclaimer: One of the reasons I most enjoy writing for the Norwich Radical is the freedom I get to make sweeping generalisations and the ability to dress up my ‘reckons’ as hardened, well researched fact. With this in mind I invite you to continue reading and take a tour of my most recent ponders and speculations.
Universities are the place where the leaders of tomorrow are squashed into being. The people that pass through university doors go on to be the business owners, the entrepreneurs, and the politicians. They go on to be the citizens who, on average at least, are more likely to be those people who shape the lives of many others. So what do these people look like? Well, even I’m not brave enough to try and generalise all students into a homogeneous group but there’s certainly some conversations to be had about the changing ‘average student’.
The way we view ourselves as a part of (or not a part of) the society around us really shapes the way we act. The way we view ourselves alters the view of our neighbours, near or far. So, how do we create ‘good’ citizens? (If I can fall upon a perfect enough definition we might come back to what a good citizen looks like…) Let’s take a whistle-stop tour of life before uni.