The Tories hate children: Or, no/ poor access to education is state-sanctioned child abuse

Cynical Croydon charging children £3,500 for remedial lessons

I would have thought that a party which prefers children to live in poverty than hold their fathers responsible for financially supporting them can’t get any higher on the “Who hates children the most” game.  Turns out, I was so beyond wrong I might as well have been on a different planet. The Tory-led council of Croydon have come up with a brilliant plan to punish children who need extra support. They’ve privatised learning support for remedial literacy, put it in a new building and are now going to charge children a whopping £3,500 for the privilege of learning to read. A government which does not give every single child access to appropriate educational services is committing state-sanctioned child abuse.


This includes any extra support they may need to help them. Requiring children to pay is horrific.

It is unbelievable that we live in a country where a child who needs extra support is expected to pay. And, let’s be honest here, this is a punishment for parents who are guilty of the heinous crimes of being poor, speaking English as a second language or having a child who is not “normal”.

No country which punishes children rather than supporting them is civilised. And, every government which believes it’s okay to force children to pay to learn is participating in state-sanctioned abuse. A child who goes through a state education who cannot read has been failed by everyone.

I know the language of abuse seems almost hyperbolic but, really, a child who lives in the UK who has to pay for support from the state education system is being set up to fail. A child who can not read is severely oppressed by the state. What is forcing a child to live in poverty because she/he has no basic literacy skills but abuse?

I hate making school lunches.

Honestly, I can’t think of a worse way to start the day. By the time my kids could spread peanut butter on bread, then were on their own. When the teenager was a vegetarian, this meant peanut butter sandwiches for six years straight. Any attempts at suggesting alternatives were met with abject horror and the suspicion that I was somehow trying to poison here. I am also the mother that considered crisps in a lunch box on par with deliberately feeding your kid salmonella. Hypocrisy be thy middle name and all that jazz.

As a single working mother (and now one who also has a disability), making packed lunches has never been on my list of priorities. I couldn’t stand them when I was a kid and I can’t stand them now. My kids won’t eat school lunches so they make their own packed lunches. This doesn’t always go to plan as seen with Small’s 22 olives in her lunch yesterday but they eat healthy food they like and then go out to play with their friends.  Surely, this is all parents want for their kids: a decent lunch with time to play regardless of who and what ends up in that lunch.

I was really disappointed in today’s article in Parentdish* which rather sneeringly dismissed one mother’s creative lunches made for her son. The article itself has now been taken down but you can see some of the snippets here.  A quick google brings up lots of images of women who make art projects out of their kids lunches:

images 1images  images 2  images 1

It is very unlikely I would do the above but, having checked with my teenager, we’re both pretty sure that mothers who do do this for their children aren’t ruining their lives or deliberately making them fussy or whatever accusation you want to toss at them. They are mothers making lunches for their kids which is what some mothers do. Other mothers don’t. It doesn’t make either category a better or worst mother. It just makes us mothers.

Judging other mothers for taking the time to cut sandwiches with cookie cutters says more about those judging than the mothers making them. We all need to cut each other some slack and recognise that doing things differently doesn’t mean we’re doing it wrong. Different isn’t bad. Creative isn’t a crime against children and  neither is refusing to spread peanut butter on bread 5 days week.



Marlborough College is now running a school for “wives”

For the bargain basement price of £32, 280 per annum*, you to can send your daughter to Marlborough college to learn how to be a “supportive wife”. Yep, that’s what Jonathan Leigh, the Master of Marlborough’s response to the Telegraph’s deeply stupid questions about a “school for wives”:

 “It is a unique situation of which we’re quietly proud – a rather happy coalescence has led to this group of able and powerful, supportive women.”

Yep. He’s not proud that his school has educated women to the best of their ability and he’s not proud of their personal successes. He’s excited because Prince William and David Cameron married Marlborough’s female students.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that any school that thinks a woman’s best role is as a “supportive wife” isn’t worth paying in toilet paper. It’s certainly not worth 30 grand a year.

Really, I’m hoping this is just piss-poor reporting from the Telegraph because, frankly, referencing pillow talk as a woman’s power is so beyond offensive that I don’t even know where to start.  I mean this is the biggest pile of misogynistic wankery I’ve seen from a woman in a long time:

So the girls who are standing by their man – while reminding him that they are his equal, and that running the country does not mean he gets out of children’s bath times – can draw strength from their old school motto: Deus Dat Incrementum, “God gives growth”. A call, the school says, to put back what has been gained, to serve in whatever way you can with dignity.

“Standing by their man” is the same rhetoric which forces women to remain in abusive marriages. It’s the same language which blames women for divorcing a man whose been fucking his way around the planet since the day after they stood at the altar. Training girls to stand by their man is misogyny.

This entire article is misogyny. It erases the entire lives of women like Samantha Cameron and reduces them to nothing more than a possession. If this is what Marlborough is teaching girls, it needs to shut down. Women’s ‘power’ isn’t in their role as a possession of a man. It is in their existence. The fact that men can’t see this is patriarchal bullshit.


*Of course, this number isn’t accurate if your child has learning difficulties. In which case, you are charged £58 per hour for support. The phrase red flag comes to mind here and I have to wonder whether Marlborough lets in any children who would have statements for support in state schools. I’m guessing no.

It Happens Here: Oxford University Student Union’s Deeply Problematic Rape Campaign

I came across the It Happens Here campaign on the weekend via twitter. I am deeply saddened that Oxford University Students Union is running such a badly designed campaign.

The article “Making Consent Count: Rape Culture in Oxford and Beyond” written by Sarah Pine demonstrates many of the problems with the campaign; most of which can be summed up with this sentence: “(t)he lack of communication during sex leads to rape.” This sentence genuinely appears in a paragraph extolling the virtues of checking consent.

A “lack of communication” does not lead to rape. Rapists rape because they chose too; not because they forget to “communicate” with their “partner”. This is a rape myth. This is why rape culture flourishes: because people genuinely believe that rape is a failure to communicate. A campaign about rape culture which lists this myth as fact is not a safe space for victims of sexual violence.

The article goes on to discuss how stranger rape is the most uncommon form. It then suggests that the vast majority of rapes can be prevented by the perpetrator checking for consent:

Whilst there are occasions that don’t fit this pattern, many of these encounters could be avoided if the perpetrator had cared to check for the consent of their partner.

I am honestly in shock at this statement. Pine basically claims that rape happens because rapists don’t value communication enough to check that they have consent. Rapists are not misunderstood men with poor communication skills. Rapists don’t check for consent because they don’t care. Rapists rape because they chose to rape and not because they are confused about “communication”.

Ironically, Pine, who is the Vice President [Women] of the OUSU,  genuinely seems to believe that the importance of the campaign is that we live in a “world that normalizes sexual violence, and excuses perpetrators from any responsibility for what they have done.” The entirety of her article excuses male sexual violence against women. It creates rape as a misunderstanding rather than a crime with a clear perpetrator who choses to rape.

I came across this article when I googled the campaign. This is the page that I first came across on twitter:

Is this you?

    Do you recognise yourself in one of the stories shared on this blog?

Or does a story remind you of something you once did?

Realising you may have perpetrated sexual violence against another can be a harrowing experience. Please think carefully about how you choose to respond:

  • Please have a look at the Respect website, and consider using The Respect Phoneline – freephone 0808 802 4040 – a confidential helpline for domestic violence perpetrators.
  • You might also consider contacting the University Counselling Service for support.
  • If you want to be in touch with the person you have offended against, you must recognise that this may re-traumatise the survivor. Therefore, do not make contact with them directly. You may wish to approach someone at your college – such as a welfare officer – as an intermediary to convey your wish to communicate to the survivor. If they choose not to respond, you must respect this.
  • You might consider sharing a story on our blog, from your perspective. Please note, however, this will be subject to the blog’s moderation policy. Particularly, it will not be posted if it in any way appears to excuse or glorify sexual violence.
  • Harassment by aggrieved perpetrators or other parties, either to survivors or the
  • website administrators will not be tolerated, and will be reported to the appropriate authorities.

There is so much wrong with this page that I am genuinely struggling to know where to start.

  1. Rapists do not “realise” they have committed sexual assault. Rapists rape because they chose too. They know perfectly well they are rapists and do not need to read the stories of victims to “realise” this.
  2. Being raped is a “harrowing” experience. Being a rapist is not.
  3. Rapists do not need to contact University Counselling Services for “support”. They need to contact the police for the protection of women.
  4. Victims need support. Rapists need to stop raping.
  5. Rapists have no right whatsoever to contact the woman they raped. Even suggesting this is disgraceful.
  6. A university welfare officer who contacts a rape victim on behalf of their rapist should be fired immediately. That is the very antithesis of a “welfare officer”.
  7. Giving rapists a platform to share their story does nothing to end rape culture. It just perpetuates it.
The campaign tumblr asks survivors of sexual violence to share their stories. Any campaign which includes such destructive rape myths as fact and gives rapists the same platform as their victims is not a safe space.
Rape is not a lack of communication. It is a violent, criminal act perpetrated by men, and legally in England and Wales only men can be convicted of rape.
An accurate list of myths about rape and sexual violence is available at Rape Crisis [England/Wales].

Rape Crisis [England/Wales]: 0808 802 9999
Rape Crisis Scotland: 08088010302
NIA: Delivering Cutting Edge Services to End Violence Against Women and Children: 02076831270

Pembroke College’s [Oxford] Rugby are still confused about sexual harassment.

Pembroke College’s rugby team made news last week with their “free pussy” social inviting players to bring two bottles of alcohol to be given to an “unsuspecting” woman. The team has now been banned from playing “first round of the season, and relegated them to the third division of the competition”. I suppose we should be excited that the Oxford rugby union has decided that threatening to spike the drinks of women is wrong, I’m just not entirely sure that members of the team understand the exact nature of the criminal acts they were advocating.

Granted, the team’s captain has stepped down and Woo Kim, the “social secretary” who sent the “free pussy” email has apologised. The problem is that Kim doesn’t seem to understand that the email itself was sexual harassment.  The Independent quotes this statement from Kim:

I want to clarify that the club had no intentions of sexual harassment,” he added. “We were not planning on spiking drinks.

Spiking women’s drinks is NOT sexual harassment. It’s assault. If they then touch the women, it is sexual assault or rape. But, the act of deliberately giving a woman a substance without her consent is assault. It is a violent crime in and of itself. 

The email constituted sexual harassment. 

Threatening to spike women’s drinks, even in ‘jest’, is sexual harassment.

Spiking women’s drinks is assault.

It’s unfortunate that Oxford Rugby Union doesn’t seem to understand this.

School Uniforms: Reinforcing Patriarchal Norms?

I’ve been frantically running around tonight making sure my children’s school uniforms are ready for tomorrow morning. This activity never fails to make me cranky; not because of the “laundry” aspect but because it reminds me just how much I hate the whole issue of uniforms. Inevitably, anyone who is acquainted with me will have heard sections of this rant because I truly believe the only reason for school uniforms is to reinforce capitalist-patriarchal norms.

The following is an amended rant from a post originally made on the Mumsnet talk boards:

This might be very disjointed and take several points to get across because I’ve come to this point from several areas: a background in education, as a mother, as a feminist, and as someone who is beyond angry at how children, and more specifically teenagers, are demonised.
1) Educational aspect: the theory is that children in uniforms learn better because they aren’t concerned about clothing and that uniforms denote respect and causes children to behave better.

I think the theory that children behave better in uniforms is horseshit. Children respond to adults who respect themselves, their colleagues and the students. Behaviour is better in schools which have effective management teams with good teachers who are supported. The best uniform in the world won’t make up for bad management, poor teaching and under resourced schools. It can’t compensate for serious social problems in children’s families or poor teaching. Kids in jeans in a good school with a good headteacher will preform well because they are respected and want to not because they are wearing or not wearing a tie.

Many, many countries do not use school uniforms and have just as much good behaviour, bad behaviour and ‘results’ as UK schools. It must be noted that most schools will still have a uniform policy banning offensive t-shirts, non-existent skirts, and, in inner-cities, banning gang colours. These bans are reasonable.

2) Poverty: The theory is that all children in the same outfit means that kids won’t get bullied over clothing. This is wrong. If your school has an expensive uniform available from only one shop, the poorest parents won’t be able to afford it anyways. Kids can also tell the difference between clothes from Tescos and clothes from M&S, even in schools which have generic cheap uniforms. They can tell the difference between boots bought from Clarks and knock-offs from ShoeZone. If they are bullied for clothing, they are just as likely to be bullied for wearing thread-bare too small uniform as they are for wearing Tescos brand jeans.

This argument also fails to address the issue of bullying. Bullies go after the weakest link. If it isn’t uniform, it will be something else. The problem is not that the children are dressed the same or not; the problem is that the school has a culture of bullying which is not being addressed effectively. That’s the definition of a shit school. Pretending that clothes will make it go away is naive and disrespectful to the children who are victimised by bullying. It makes them responsible for being bullied because they aren’t dressed appropriately rather than blaming the bullying on the bully and the school environment which allows them to continue without intervention.

Bullying and our bullying culture is part of the patriarchal structure of our society which sets up everyone in a hierarchy of importance. It also marginalises any child who does not ‘fit’ the mold.

3) Conformity: I think maintaining conformity is about maintaining our hierarchical society. I believe it is misogynistic as well as classist: setting out a clear difference between those who are important and those who are not.

4) Material Culture of Uniforms: Uniforms tend to be of poor quality, prone to die problems and rip easily. it is more expensive to keep replacing cheap items of clothing that it is to purchase new better quality clothes. jeans from Tescos (£10) last a lot longer on a physical child that a pair of cheap nylon trousers. If you have more than one child, you are more likely to get more wear out of Tescos jeans than you are the cheap nylon trousers.

5) Respect: This is where I think the issue of uniforms moves into questions of patriarchy. I think, in many ways, they are outward emblems of social control designed to make children ‘others’. If you think of the work which requires uniforms, most are of low status and equally low pay [sanitation workers etc]; many of these jobs which are frequently preformed by women.

It is also the outward signifier of respect: those in power require these to make themselves feel better. Its like the idea that you can never be rude to your ‘elders’ because they are old, they must be obeyed. Why should you have to respect a 90 year old man because he’s old. He may also be a paedophile, have committed severe violence against his wife or children, be a violent alcoholic. Requiring respect for being old implies that the opposite, children, require no respect. As a society, we are reaping serious social damage due to our lack of respect for our children.

There are so many other things that schools need to worry about; such as children who are being abused at home, or who are being bullied, ensuring that all kids leave literate even if they have multiple severe problems, which makes continuous school attendance difficult. Arguing over a tie just seems petty. The argument becomes you must wear the tie because I told you to not because it is of any benefit to you.

The other part is the more time we spend faffing about over uniforms, the less time we spend actually ensuring that the kid who is lashing out isn’t lashing out because he’s just testing boundaries [normal for teenagers] but is lashing out because of abuse, anxiety, fear or a 101 other reasons. Uniforms are a form of hierarchical social control and, fundamentally, only serve to reinforce patriarchal norms at the expense of our children’s education and their self-respect.