Starting a Wave: Educational Advocacy In the Belly of the Beast

Published: Mar 4, 2023  |  

Writer, life coach and yoga teacher

Educational Advocacy In the Belly of the Beast

Illustration by Sarameeya Aree

As I previously covered, I’d spent years working within the UK’s dysfunctional educational system, so when I was called to do my part in Parliament, I couldn’t miss my chance to effect real change.  

Parliament was exciting.  There was more shuffling going on than an early 80’s dance floor. MPs and their advisors were changing camps and colors with the wind. Everyone could sense the power of real—and perhaps better—change, but none had it in their grasp.

“From the grassroots up” was our unspoken mantra, but I feared few truly believed change started with children and the home. I’d learned that ones’ local environment and community is the basis of everything: the micro foundation for our macro society. As children, we learn so many of the skills we will need to survive healthily and pursue happiness in this space.

Yet so many in our under-resourced communities can barely exist themselves—let alone access good education or provide the necessary resources to grow their young successfully.

I relentlessly push for greater focus on education, political, media, environmental and economic literacy. Today, the importance of a strong collective voice and the unionization of workers of every age and profession is evident in our ongoing food and fuel poverty crisis.  The traumatic impact of the lack of adequate food and housing has on childhood, families, communities’ health and education is unacceptable. 

Youth vote was a massive focus; developing Intergenerational policy building another. We rallied the support of Pensioners, Waspi women, Disabled People Against Cuts, the Neurodiverse, Gig-economy workers, BAME workers, abandoned ex-service men, students—basically every color of the rainbow found in our local communities.

This all pivoted on collaborative community organizing and Jeremy Corbyn’s unique and particular ability to rally, to call to action the young, the politically untainted, and the disaffected.

John McDonnell supported Shout Out UK—an enterprise set up to educate the youth about democracy, the media, and how to use one’s voice to effect human and employment rights.  Let’s put it this way: I organized a lot of work experience placements in Parliament and “encouraged” our MPs to find the space in their busy calendars and conference schedules to advocate for political education in all schools. 

Referring back to my first article, what really got under my skin and soon became my “bugbear” was the low price of food in the various eateries within the Houses of Parliament. How could these very tasty, well put together, freshly-prepared breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus be so heavily subsidized for Parliamentarians (and all their many dignitaries) but a shitty state school dinner in the poorest parts of the UK cost almost twice as much?!

I was absolutely disgusted and still am. It’s shameful. Yet here we are today, fighting the Government to spend our money on free school meals for some of our neediest children and poorest working families. Who’s supporting who here?

Having made it through two leadership elections, two general elections, a Referendum and Brexit—in part… I am compelled to mention an amazingly talented advisor called Liam Budd. He was a shining light for me during these challenging years and helped me remember why I was there.

Together—but mostly due to Liam’s seemingly endless and tireless hard work—we created a roughly costed but nonetheless thorough Youth Services Policy for Labour, which could have been funded via what I actually feel was a very solid levy system on certain industries that profit financially from exploiting youth consumers.

Among many things it addressed the positive and negative impact and causal links of the implementation or eradication of many necessary youth facilities on grassroots services. 

Sadly, while working on the budget prior to the 2019 general elections, it finally hit home. It didn’t matter how well the policy was costed or how important the impact of implementation would or could be. No one was going to get what they needed. Every department was scrapping for morsels. We collectively needed a budget spend that the public purse just simply did not hold. Some of it would have to be taken from the checking (taxes) account overdraft, some from the savings (pension funds, bonds) and some borrowed at a high interest rate or—alas—the selling off of valuable assets and services.  

The UK’s whole economic framework is flawed and will never allow public funds to flow freely where they are most needed, of most collective benefit, or are likely to yield the biggest growth and the best return for the many.

What I learnt in my five short years of walking the corridors of power at the so-called “top” is that our social establishments are built to service the few. It is now as it has always been since their creations.

At some point, we must realize a new way is possible. And that I will discuss in the third and final article of this series.

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