Over the past few days, as I have approached the end of my Easter holidays (the benefit of working in the independent sector is a 3rd week!) I have had several moments of realisation, but one of the most powerful happened 2 days ago, Friday 17th April. I deliberately include the date as it has seen a paradigm shift in much of my thinking in so many ways that, in the future, I don’t want to forget when it was. I will outline the shift(s) throughout this piece, but suffice to say I know more than anything – I want to be a mosquito!
So, what was so special about the day? Well, as an ITL Associate, I was part of a group that was meeting with the wonderful Sir Albert Aynsley Green and with @RossAshcroft, his wife Megan, as well as their delightful daughter Octavia at their Motherlode Studios. Ross is best known to me for his excellent film The Four Horsemen (here), which was shared with ITL Associates by Ian Gilbert – yes him of Thunks fame and creator of Independent Thinking Ltd. The purpose of the meeting was to begin to explore possible solutions and ways of working together to address the clear, current (and historic) growing dislocation between the health, education and well-being agendas for children (and, in turn, families) – despite the obvious need for them to have a cohesive, preventative plan. So, nothing much then for a Friday in April then!
The day was being chaired by Nina Jackson (@musicmind), with Dave Harris (@BraveHead), Dave Keeling (@MrAppealing), Stephanie Davies (@Laughology), Gill Kelly (@lifeisnotaline), Tim Benton (@TimBenton), Julie Rees (@julierees100) and Bethan Stracy-Burridge (@ARTBethan) from ITL all in attendance, a great array of talent (and me) to see how we could work together to try to arrest the issues.
Now, in my view, even with an election on the horizon, you could be forgiven for thinking there is no serious issue to try to tackle here – it’s not really mentioned in broadcasts [see below]. Or maybe, as I had thought previously (hence the title of this piece), that the issue is so vast, that what could you – just one person, do about it? Or perhaps you are more of the Katie Hopkins* persuasion, that anyone in need in the UK in 2015 is simply; overweight, lazy, feckless, foreign, uneducated, etc, etc (make your choice) and so any issue is of a person’s own making and is easily solved – clearly the use gunships are optional!
(*It was Katie Hopkins’ column in The Sun about her views on immigrants that made me decide I will never buy that paper again. I know some people will be shocked by this. Perhaps shocked by the fact that I still did buy it until now and it has taken until now to decide to stop buying it. However, it has been my paper of choice since I was a kid at home and I have always loved the sport in it. True I get most of my new online now and only tend to buy a paper during holidays/ weekends and true I do often invest in other papers, but to me any paper willing to publish something as disgusting and hateful as that column isn’t worth my money. This was another moment of realisation for me.)
Even before attending the meeting, thanks to reading the BMA’s ‘Growing up in the UK’ I could see that the meeting was essential and reminded me of the adage,
‘If not us, then who? If not now, then when?’
In fact, it was further driven home whilst watching Question Time on Thursday night, when Angus Robertson (SNP Leader at Westminster) made the following points:
- Britain, despite being wealthy has people lining up at food banks.
- The projection is that 1 million extra children will be in poverty by 2020.
However, the point I am making here isn’t a political one – I actually think Piers Morgan spoke for many people 10 minutes into the programme on Thursday when he described how fed up we are of all the electoral white noise. No, my point is that I have heard Angus Robertson’s claims several times throughout this campaign, which have been denied or lauded depending on the party speaking at the time and yet not once have I heard anyone say how they will lift those children already in poverty out! It’s become an argument over whether the situation will get worse, or stays the same – not about how to improve and lift all children out of poverty and improve their life chances. Admittedly, Tony Blair did pledge to halve childhood poverty by 2010 and to eradicate it by 2020, but that target has been missed and seems to be ignored. Surely, whatever your political persuasion that’s a target everyone should work towards?
As the BMA document clearly shows, but as teachers everywhere know, the link between education success (not simply exams by the way!) and poverty and its impacts on health is huge. One only has to look at the criteria looked at regarding value added data and the children who ‘make a difference’ to know where targets are focused. Across the country, in cities and rural areas (and Julie Rees will explain better than I the huge variance between the two) poverty and subsequent effects blight children’s opportunities. As Dave Keeling so aptly put it,
“Life and learning should be a festival of the mind.”
But for too many this is not the case.
And that is the challenge (which leads to a further self-realisation – see below.) Everyone knows that there have been colossal blunders in our recent past to do with education, too often to do with dogma than facts and evidence – often too inconvenient to suit the mentality of those putting measures in place! The dismantling of ‘Every Child Matters’ and the abandoning of the implementation of the National Service Framework for children young people and maternity services are two such examples, as is allowing the Sure Start programme to dissipate by it not being protected, let alone championed.
These 3 elements have been so retrograde, as they strike at the fundamental element we were discussing Friday, the start of a child’s life and their chances. In fact, when I have reviewed the political statements of the week about ‘Cradle to College’ education and support it has taken on a whole new light. In fact, I ask who has the knowledge, will and inspiration to do something about it?
This leads to my realisation, as I said at the start, I want to be a mosquito! Do you? You see, surely this poster asks the best question, with a set of great reminders?
The only, potentially, scary thing is – and this is my other realisation, is that you become part of what has been termed The Blob. But, so what? I know which group I’d rather be in, and if enough of us have the bravery to put our heads ‘above the parapet’, we can change things. There are people out there succeeding despite the best intentions of those in power – at all levels. As I have quoted before, Steve Jobs said it best:
So I guess the question is, are you crazy enough? I am crazy enough and so is everyone at ITL, as are Sir Al, Ross and Megan!
Let’s not all just be mosquitoes, but let’s become a swarm!
“The task is not so much to see what no-one has yet seen,
but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everyone sees.”
More on this will definitely follow!