Posts tagged ‘Education’

May 25, 2017

Meet Bernard Hyde, Green Party candidate for Chatham and Aylesford

Chartered Architect


Bernard HydeThe Green Party stands for ‘the common good’. Three simple words that have a real and particular meaning for creating a sustainable future in which people and the environment that support them matter most. I am honoured to stand for the Green Party in the forthcoming general election for the Chatham and Aylesford Constituency.

I have enjoyed living and working in Medway for nearly seventeen years. I am a grandfather, keen gardener and self-employed chartered architect and town planner specialising in energy efficient buildings, both locally and overseas. The maxim of my architectural practice is ‘work with nature and nature will work for you’.

Many plants and animals have died out because their natural habitat has been destroyed. Frequently these habitats have been destroyed by human activity.  We must stop this happening.  Unlike other species we are able to determine our future and choose to make intelligent use of our natural resources.

The choices we make have to be for everyone and everything, because everyone and everything matter, they are all integral and all have an essential contribution to make to the well-being and future of our planet which is also our one and only habitat.

In Government policy making, everyone should count equally and everyone should have equal opportunity to make their unique contribution to society. Policies need to look to a future spanning decades and centuries, not related to short-term gain but a future shared and enjoyed by everyone.

The physical resources of the world in which we live are finite and we have already used up substantial quantities of them. We inherit the planet from our parents, but we also borrow it from our children. It is our duty to act in an intelligent, mature and compassionate way towards those around us and those who come after us.

Although our resources are finite, our potential to create innovative solutions to a myriad of problems is infinite. Every single person has a role to play and has potential to contribute to a better future. Educational opportunities must therefore be equal for all, healthcare must be equal for all, housing must be available to all. How else can everyone contribute unless they have reached their potential in mind, body and well-being.

Our country has a rich tradition of inventiveness and creativity. In the past this has been the product of a minority of educated and privileged people. How much further and faster might we progress to a sustainable future if we harness the efforts, energies skills and gifts of everyone.

There are already new ideas and developments emerging in every field that could help shape a truly sustainable future for everyone. These need to become our common place, common sense, common knowledge that will be our building blocks to a sustainable future.

Chatham has a proud tradition of skill, knowledge and dedication to the greater good. It is now a seat of learning in every respect from toddlers to retired adults with the potential to achieve great things, not just for the Chatham & Aylesford constituency, but for Medway and surrounding areas as a whole, nationally and globally.

The Green Party has responded to the consultation for the Medway Local Plan with a vision for the future of this area. If elected, I would work to ensure that this vision becomes a reality.

October 10, 2016

Medway Greens select candidate for Rainham Central by-election

Professor George Meegan has been selected as the Green Party’s candidate for the upcoming by-election in Rainham Central.

george-meeganProfessor Meegan is passionate about both protecting our cultural and environmental heritage and creating a better future for children and young people.  He is a top international prize winner in the field of education who stood as an independent parliamentary candidate for Gillingham and Rainham in the 2010 General Election in order to promote alternative forms of education, but has since joined the Green Party.

Professor Meegan says:
“I am running for the Green Party for one reason: I recently became a grandfather and I want my granddaughter to experience the wonderful world that I have experienced. However I see a degraded and polluted planet. We are facing the biggest threat to humanity in the form of climate change. We are being subjected to polluted air daily and our rich cultural heritage and green spaces are at risk of being compromised. As well as the threat of their lives being devastated by environmental catastrophe, our young people are being denied the opportunities in life that we had before them. We need to do all we can to reverse this trend in order to protect the futures of our children and our grandchildren.  The Green Party is not like the other main parties.  The Green Party believes that decisions should be made as locally as possible by those it most affects, and that is why I am honoured to run for the Green Party”.

Rainham is George’s current and childhood home, although he has travelled extensively during his life and career. He was educated at Meredale, Wakeley Road, and Orchard Street Schools. He joined the Merchant Navy at 16, but later in his career (until recently) he worked as Associate Professor of Maritime Sciences at Kobe University in Japan and has delivered lectures across the world.  A programme of education that he designed has been incorporated into the Japanese school curriculum. He has now returned to live in Rainham, but frequently travels abroad to voluntarily further his work in education within indigenous populations.

He says: “I believe in working to ensure that each individual child receives the right kind of education to allow that child to be the best that they can be. This means that we need to move away from standardised curriculums and endless testing and focus on developing the interests and aspirations inherent in each child.  Yes, children are the future and the high stakes testing is wounding some kids.  I have been told that children here in the Medway Towns have developed Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome due to the pressure they are being put under. Not every child thrives in a one size fits all environment. The potential of any child is huge, but not always in academics. I am passionate about working to ensure that the education system serves all our kids well”.

His other passion is walking. In his younger years he received extensive media coverage for completing the longest journey on foot in history, of 19019 miles across the American continents, and has received many accolades and awards for his long walks, including eight entries in the Guinness Book of Records.

George says “I have never been afraid of a challenge. If elected, I will strive to deliver a better future for both residents in Rainham Central and for the Medway Towns as a whole”.

May 1, 2013

Press Release: Medway Greens Prepare for 2015

Members volunteer for Green Party candidate training and manifesto development.

With the local elections in full flow in other areas of the country this week, the Medway Greens have concentrated their focus on the fight ahead. Several members have volunteered for a training course, delivered by the Green Party, in order to prepare members for the 2015 General Election. Party Co-ordinator, Trish Marchant, commented:

“At a time of austerity, when this coalition government is attacking every vulnerable group in society, we are proud to have so many members willing to stand up and be counted. At times like these, if you are not involved in the fight, you are telling the coalition that it is OK by you. You can only create change by getting active”.

Alongside preparing candidates, the Medway Greens are busy putting together their full 2015 election manifesto. Trish Marchant spoke about the wide range of areas it will cover:

“We are fine tuning the details of our policies on everything from culture and the arts to animal rights, as well as the issues prominent in everyone’s minds: housing, education, transport, policing, social care and the local economy. Our vision is of communities working together to meet everyone’s needs. Our policies will encompass sustainability, equality and compassion. We want to make Medway a cleaner, greener, fairer, safer and more democratic place. These aims are achievable; all it requires is political courage”.

Trish also stressed the Green Party’s ethos of equal participation:

“We are not a party of leaders and followers; we encourage local members to be actively involved. Flying in candidates from other areas is something we like to avoid. Our candidate pool is made up of local members who live and involve themselves in the local community and the local party. We also hold meetings where every detail of our manifesto undergoes friendly debate between our members”.

Alongside election preparations, Green Party members continue to regularly take part in a wide range of peaceful actions, designed to campaign against injustices, raise awareness of environmental threats, as well as advocate changes in policy which they believe will benefit us all.

“We are a party committed to bringing about change,” adds Trish, “It’s not simply about competing in elections”.


September 12, 2012

Mental Health for All by Involving All

A TEDTalk by Vikram Patel which is relevant to developing and developed countries.

The TED web site covers a range of subjects and is well worth visiting.

David M. Davison

February 25, 2012

Caroline Lucas’ Conference Speech

July 3, 2011

Legitimate Strike Action Gains Support of Medway Green Party

That's what it's all about

The strike action on 30th June may have been condemned by the Conservatives, Lib-dems and Labour parties but the Green Party across the UK were openly in support of the teachers, lecturers and civil servants action to protect their terms and conditions. In Chatham, Medway Greens had spent the previous Saturday talking to shoppers and residents about the strike and were supporting the rally on the day at the Command House.

Trish Marchant from Medway Green Party said “It is a tragedy for both the students and the teachers that the coalition governments vicious attacks on the pension and retirement age of such an important sector of our society has forced workers to strike, most for the first time in their careers. To increase the contributions to their pensions by 50% is bad enough but to then devalue the pension by pushing back the age for retirement for people that have spent their working lives in such a challenging and sometimes stressful job is just cruel. The average pension for a retired teacher is £10000, less than the minimum wage, that is not gold-plated.”

Earlier in the week Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch told the press that she was prepared to help in one of her constituency schools in support of the teachers that were not striking. Not surprising this did not go down well at the rally when it was mentioned by one of the speakers. Trish was also critical of the MP’s action claiming that she was using the strike herself as an opportunity to score points. “It is astonishing that Tracey accuses the teachers of playing games with the education of children when it is her and her coalition partners that have caused this crisis. This government is making the public sector pay the cost of the banks mistakes and the previous governments mismanagement of the finance sector. The civil servants and teachers have made the difficult decision to strike knowing that it will cause disruption to the people they care about, but if this government doesn’t start to recognise the potential damage of its actions it is likely that Unison, GMB and others, who’s members pensions average at a few thousand, will be forced to follow the same action. I hope that the message from Thursday gets through to those that make the decisions”.

As far as the effect on the school children Trish summed up what a teacher had said to her “I was told by one striker that the effect on the student of one lost school day has to be set against the alternative of a demoralised workforce struggling to make the additional contributions with the reality of the current pay freeze and a retirement in poverty for teachers.”

Last year Michael Gove, the education minister, told the Association of Teachers and Lecturers how important they were and how valuable their professional skills were. The same teachers hope that he will remember this and review the treatment of pensions and retirement age. In 2006 public sector pensions were reviewed in light of the increased life expectancy in the UK so it is widely accepted that these pensions are now sustainable.

June 13, 2011

Should Students Pay for Their Education?

By Tony Major.

The government has decided that students should pay up to £27,000 to be able to get an honours degree during their recent spending review; and students wishing to further their education in college are looking at paying around £1,500 per year for level 2/3 (GCSE/’A’ level) qualification. In my view this will stop people studying and improving their life chances. In fact I know several students who have said that they will not be able to complete their studies as they can’t afford the upfront costs of further education.

The reason given for students making substantial contributions to their education is that they will benefit from it to such an extent that they will earn significantly more than those who do not receive further and higher education. Whilst I accept that this may be the case, how do students receive their extra income? Usually, by working for a business. If they work for a business, then you can guarantee that that business is earning more from the employee’s work than the employee is. So who really benefits from an educated workforce? I would suggest business and through increased taxes: our society.

The aim of educating the population has been to produce workers; in 1776, Adam Smith’s ‘The Wealth of Nations’ suggested that “the greater part of what is taught in schools and universities does not seem to be the proper preparation for that of business”, i.e. education was failing students and business. There have been many attempts over the years to address this problem and currently (within further education any way) the government have created the Sector Skills Council. This body allows business to direct the content and direction of qualifications awarding bodies (such as the City and Guilds) give, so that it fulfils their needs. Indeed the Leitch (2007) and Wolf (2011) reports (educational reform reports) suggest that it is vital that business take a greater part in the education of our students.

My conclusion therefore is: if businesses are adapting the education of our students to benefit themselves, than they should help pay for it. This could eliminate student fees altogether; and according to an article I read can be achieved by taxing only businesses that have a profit of £1,500,000 or more per year. This in turn would put smaller businesses on a more equal footing to their larger competitors helping competition. At the end of the day if you want an educated society which will ensure the prosperity of the nation, why restrict the pool of talent from which we can draw by making it impossible for some to get an education. Education should be a human right and should be free.

May 20, 2011

Teaching Happiness: The Prime Minister of Bhutan Takes on Education

The short interview below is by Dahlia Colman from the Solutions Journal.  The Prime Minister’s answers will hopefully encourage the reader to think more deeply about the “conventional role and structure of education.”

Prime Minister of BhutanIn March 2008, after a century of absolute monarchy, Bhutan, a small, Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas, held its first democratic elections. Bhutan’s transition to a constitutional monarchy (i.e., the king is still the head of state, but the executive and legislative bodies are now democratically elected) has aggravated citizens’ concerns about how globalization and modernization might affect Bhutan’s traditional values. The country has long worked to preserve its isolation —it was one of the last nations to introduce television, lifting a ban on the Internet and TV in 1999. The royal government’s response to these concerns has been Gross National Happiness, or GNH, the guiding development philosophy in Bhutan for the last quarter century. GNH attempts to balance economic development, environmental conservation, good governance, and cultural promotion. Bhutan’s first prime minister, Lyonchoen Jigme Y. Thinley, is now working to radically transform Bhutan’s national education system to reflect GNH values, which he defines as “sacredness, reverence, honour, and respect.”

Here, the Bhutanese prime minister is interviewed by Dahlia Colman, the cofounder of GPI Youth, an international youth program based on the philosophy of Gross National Happiness.

It seems that the current education system in Bhutan, and also in the developed world, pushes a certain set of values designed to promote only economic growth, rather than the values that lead to happiness. How is Bhutan balancing the two?

Well, I belong to the generation of people in Bhutan that had the fortune, in a sense, of having been educated in a traditional way, as well as in the modern education system. In the traditional educational arrangement, values were the main emphasis. The kind of attitudes and the set of beliefs that people developed in this old learning arrangement had a very strong spiritual orientation and a strong sense of ethics. But the modern education system that we have here today, as much as we claim it has been designed to suit our own needs, culture, and environment, is subject to an excessive amount of outside influence in the writing of our curriculum, in the way the education system is structured, and in the way our teachers are trained. When I say “outside influence,” I’m talking about the conventional role and structure of education, both in terms of curriculum and administration, that prepare students for the world of consumerism. One learns how to compete in the real world—the material world—and how to succeed regardless of what the costs may be to one’s own emotions, psychological well-being, and relationships.

So, here in Bhutan, the reason why we are worried is because, if we don’t do something now, we may have too many so-called educated people who would lead, govern, and form the main part of the Bhutanese community and economy, but be guided by a materialistic way of life. If the current education system and curriculum are allowed to continue, then the kind of students that would come out of the schools would be people with values that are indeed quite antithetical to Gross National Happiness principles.

How can you cultivate compassion, wisdom, and awareness through a national education system?

Ultimately, what happens in the schools has more to do with the teachers than with the curriculum or the textbooks. The vast majority of the teachers are Bhutanese, are Buddhists. They understand Gross National Happiness values more than some of us who preach them. All we need to do for the teachers is bring those values at the subconscious level to the conscious level, and let them know that the system will appreciate their imparting these values, their openly practicing and exercising these values, when teaching our children. It will not be easy because, among other reasons, the teacher to student ratio is not very favorable. Especially in some parts of the country, the classroom size is very big, sometimes 50, 60, or even 80 students. The kind of individual attention that is needed will not be possible. It will be difficult, but it can be done. I am very hopeful.

It seems that no young person inherently possesses anti-GNH values. Do children need to be taught to be happy?

Every child, like every adult, wants to be happy in life. But, in this materialistic world, this consumerist society, we are bombarded by messages that seek to increase greed within us, making us want more and more and more. In the modern classroom, nothing much is taught about happiness, generosity, goodness, and humility. And then, when they go home, most of our children, especially in the urban areas, sit in front of the television. And what they see is more of that: the advertisements, the temptations. Parents in the modern world, in modern Bhutan, have less and less time to foster Gross National Happiness values. Now, what we are talking about is at least balancing this trend with good education, with reminders of the more important things that will, in fact, bring happiness. We should help our children realize that what they really want in life, if they ask themselves, is happiness. We cannot stop television, we cannot stop their exposure to commercials, the advertisements to buy this or buy that, but hopefully we will be able to give them a strong dose of the other kind of temptation—the temptation to be good. That’s why if we have good teachers, and we do, they will be able to not so much inculcate values, but bring out the goodness in our children.

Can you give examples of how Bhutan’s schools can promote happiness?

There will be reminders on a daily basis, in all aspects of education, from school administration to sports. For instance, we have morning prayers. These prayers are just recitation of mantras that the children don’t understand or appreciate. But we will now ensure that the chants are well selected and that the children are required to do a little bit of meditation instead of only chanting. Before the meditation, a topic will be chosen and the students will be told about a particular value to follow and practice for that day, and that value will be the subject of the speech delivered by the selected school captain. Each time a student gives a speech, he or she will do research on that subject. While the audience will learn a little about the value being discussed, the speaker will have a far greater understanding, an understanding that will hopefully influence him for his entire life. This was true in my case. I was a school captain and spoke on many subjects during Monday assembly. As for meditation, I think it will condition the school in terms of value orientation for that day. And after the 160 days in the school year, I think the children will have gone through quite a bit of orientation. This will be a big change. Currently, they are not required to do this at all. Teachers, likewise, in their staff meetings should ask, “Which particular aspect of Gross National Happiness should we promote this week?” And also, “How should we assess our own performance and the school’s performance against these values for the week?” And then, at the end of the year, they have their own self-assessment, and the children can do the same thing.

David M. Davison

May 2, 2011

Grammar Schools and Deprivation

At the Medway Messenger arranged hustings on Tuesday, 26th April, one of the panellists, Professor Tim Luckhurst, defended grammar schools and stated they increase social mobility.  Upon being challenged by a member of the audience,  Tim Luckhurst denied grammar schools take less than their share of more deprived children and repeated his assertion that such schools increase social mobility.

The Department for Education’s research gateway provides access to a variety of publications, one of which is the statistical bulletin The Composition of Schools in England.  This document and its overview are available via this page.  The data relates to 2006/07 but the document is the latest available version.

The document is 178 pages but chapter five, How Representative are Schools of their Local Authorities?, discusses the degree of segregation of pupils in Local Authorities and considers the extent to which deprived pupils are concentrated in particular schools.  One of the chapter’s summary points is an indication that Tim Luckhurst’s assertion is incorrect:

  • The levels of segregation of FSM pupils [FSM is free school meal – this is used as a proxy for deprivation] in secondary schools appeared to be more associated with the proportion of pupils in grammar schools in an LA than any other LA characteristics.

Chapter six, How would the composition of secondary schools’ intakes change if all pupils were admitted to their nearest school?, discusses how representative schools are of deprived pupils in their local area.  Again, one of the chapter’s summary points indicates Tim Luckhurst’s assertion is incorrect:

  • Grammar schools’ Year 7 FSM rates were not representative of their local areas; in comprehensive schools FSM rates were slightly higher than if pupils attended their nearest school.

The parliamentary briefing Grammar school statistics is a more easily digestible read and one of its sources is the above mentioned statistical bulletin.  The graph below (which can be clicked on for a larger image) has been taken from the briefing and the free school meals element of the graph is striking (please note: SEN means special education need).

The briefing’s text accompanying the graph included these statements:

  • While one might expect many types of SEN to limit a pupil’s performance at an entrance exam, the impact of free school meal status (a proxy for poverty/deprivation) is less direct. The rates were 1.9% at grammars, 11.3% at secondary modern schools and 12.8% across all school types.
  • The Department for Children Schools and Families has looked at the intake of grammar schools in comparison to that of their local area. This found that free school meal rates in grammars were not representative of their local areas. They were around one-fifth of the level in their local area in 2007.
  • This study [the statistical bulletin referred to above] also looked at the level of deprivation affecting children in the areas that different types of schools took their pupils from. In grammar schools in 2007 the proportion of pupils from the least deprived quartile was just over 40%, compared to around 25% in their local area. The proportion of their intake from the most deprived quartile was around 8%, compared to just over 20% in their local area.

A final extract from the briefing shows clearly that grammar schools do not take their share of more deprived children:

Research for the Sutton Trust which looked at the ‘social selectivity’ of secondary schools found that grammars were more socially selective than other schools and that they made up 17 of the top 100 most socially selective secondary schools, but 5% of all secondaries. This general finding should be little surprise given the lower attainment of pupils eligible for free school meals at the end of primary school. However, the report also noted that even among the brightest pupils (in the top quarter of performers at the end of primary school) free school meal rates in grammar schools were 2% compared to 5% across all schools. The authors concluded that grammar schools were enrolling ‘…half as many academically able children from disadvantaged backgrounds as they could do’ [my emphasis].

This is the Green Party’s position on grammar schools:

ED140 The grammar school system decides which young people are likely to succeed academically when they are only 11 years old with a single test which many consider to be a poor indicator of ability and skills. For those who fail this can take opportunities away from them and cause them to lose confidence in their abilities at an age when they are only just beginning to explore learning. The system can also cause social divisions. Evidence shows that the overall standard of achievement is higher where people are educated in mixed ability environments.

ED141 For these reasons the Green Party will allow no new grammar schools and gradually integrate grammar and secondary modern schools into the comprehensive system.

ED142 We will encourage mixed ability learning in all schools as far as possible.

David M. Davison