MMU BA Y&C course under threat! Advice and support appreciated.

The BA [Honours] Youth and Community course at the Manchester Metropolitan University is facing a precarious future. Against this worrying backcloth Janet Batsleer, Reader in Education and Principal Lecturer, Youth and Community, writes to ask our readers the following question.

What would you design into a Community Education course for the future that builds on the learning of the past 40 years or so? Or would you just close it down?

Your replies should be sent to Janet at J.Batsleer@mmu.ac.uk and would be much appreciated.

 

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Tony Taylor, Jon Ord and Janet Batsleer at the IDYW conference

 

These are indeed troubled times.

The cuts are taking youth clubs back to their Victorian roots – Sue Shanks in the Guardian

Just in case you missed it here’s the link to Sue’s insightful piece in the Guardian this week.

The cuts are taking youth clubs back to their Victorian roots

 

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Sue chats to Malcolm Ball at last week’s conference – ta to Justin Wyllie

 

Greetings on International Women’s Day. #Be Bold, Be Brave!

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Originally called International Working Women’s Day, it was first celebrated on February 28, 1909, in New York in remembrance of a 1908 strike of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union when 15,000 workers, including many immigrants, marched through the city’s lower east side to demand social and political rights.

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The first modern International Women’s Day was held in 1914, five years after its inception, on March 8. The day was chosen because it was a Sunday, which the majority of women would have off work allowing them to participate in marches and other events, and has been celebrated on that date ever since.

And today, in the USA, women are proposing ‘A day without a woman’.

In the same spirit of love and liberation that inspired the Women’s March, we join together in making March 8th A Day Without a Woman, recognizing the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system–while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity. We recognize that trans and gender nonconforming people face heightened levels of discrimination, social oppression and political targeting. We believe in gender justice.

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Just a question – what conversations are taking place in the youth work world today about women’s liberation, the idea of a women’s strike – the collective struggle?

 

Brighton and Hove’s Youth Services Survive – Blog from Preventing Inequality

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The Pre-Qual Group report from a victorious Brighton and Hove.

Our latest blog post, reflecting on the successful campaign to #protectyouthservices and how we can move forward and build on our momentum.

It begins:

Before we go anywhere in terms of analysing the result of the council’s budget meeting on February the 23rd and discussing how we can move forward, we just want to say well f****** done everybody!!! We all absolutely smashed this campaign, and youth services will survive another year!!!

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It continues:

It is incredibly important that we ask where this money which has been put back into the budget has come from. Most of it will be coming from the Housing Revenue Account, on the basis that those living in council estates are those most likely to benefit from properly funded youth services. The Housing Revenue Account records all revenue expenditure and income from council controlled housing and other services and is essentially a fund to be spent only on housing related services. Given the dire state of much council accommodation in the city (check out ETHRAG, Brighton Housing Coalition and Brighton SolFed for more information on current housing campaigns in the city) it is clear that any money which is diverted from the HRA will limit the council’s ability to deal with the poor conditions rife in council housing and flats. Although the residents of council estates will see a benefit from youth services in terms of things such as the wellbeing of young people, reduced crime and homelessness, a reduction in the HRA will likely have a negative impact on the conditions of the places they live. The issues addressed by youth services are not the same as those addressed by the HRA and as such to say the benefits of one can replace the benefits of the other is simply wrong.

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At the start of the campaign we called for the council to declare a “no cuts” budget. This is an action for which there is precedent, where the council refuses to set a budget within the funding limits set by central government. Our reasoning for this call was that the proposed cuts in the budget would be unavoidably devastating for many, if not all, of the residents of our city, with cuts going through across the board, from temporary and emergency accommodation to support for disabled adults. We believe these cuts to be shortsighted both economically and socially, and hoped that the proposed cuts to youth services might best illustrate the massive cost to our city of the Conservative government’s enforced cuts to Local Authorities. Fundamentally, we did not believe that any service that provides for the most vulnerable in our communities is more deserving of funding than another, so it would be unfair to take money from one service to fund another. Unfortunately, this call for “no cuts” quickly died as the reality of the situation dictated that such a budget would not occur, and the best we could hope for was mitigating the effects of the proposed cuts to youth services. However, this should be seen as the beginning, not the end, of calls for a “no cuts” budget.

It concludes:

Building a movement

Finally, we believe it is absolutely vital that we begin our planning and our campaigning against cuts to council services as early as possible. One thing which we have taken as a key lesson from the campaign to protect youth services is that by simply reacting to decisions we automatically put ourselves at a disadvantage. Campaigners have maintained this reactive attitude for for too long, merely responding to the latest attack on ordinary people by the political establishment. Instead we must be proactive in building a movement to defend our interests. When the proposed cuts were announced, we found ourselves in a position where we had only a couple of months to put together an effective campaign. By beginning our preparations now and building a strong coalition of groups opposed to cuts across the city we might be able to stop the cuts altogether next year, with a strong ground campaign engaging residents in the issues to gain mass support and building a strong enough case for a “no cuts” budget that the council cannot ignore it. As such, we call on every group which has fought cuts to any and all services to join us in building a movement to end the violent cycle of cuts which are destroying our city and the lives of its residents.

If this campaign to protect youth services has proved one thing, it is that when you organise around a demand which is achievable, have an argument which is strong enough and you pursue that argument with enough persistence and a great enough diversity of tactics, you can achieve concrete success. These were the key elements which won the youth service campaign; saving the service was realistically achievable, the arguments were solid and we simply did not leave the council alone, pursuing every possible avenue available to us, from getting out onto the streets to legally challenging the consultation process. By following this formula we believe that we can be successful in fighting off the cuts again next year, but we can’t do it on our own: we need your help.

Read this challenging and self-critical account  in full at Brighton and Hove’s Youth Services Survive

 

Educating for good? Preventing the bad? Join the debate, March 17

It’s not long to the IDYW national conference on Friday, March 17 in Birmingham. I always get anxious, worrying that nobody will turn up so forgive me encouraging you to think seriously about being with us. It’s always stimulating. Hope to see you there.

Belatedly there’s now an event post on Facebook – see this link below

https://www.facebook.com/events/424051277928371/

PS A few folk have commented that perhaps it’s a long way to come for half a day. In the past we’ve gone for an 11.00 kick off, but never started on time due to travel dilemmas. Hence we’re experimenting with this later starting time and no lunch break. Cheers.

 

Department of Media, Sport and Culture to offer a new narrative, within which young people are passionate, happy and valued………. Suspend your disbelief and have your say?

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Back in November 2016, at the Ambition conference, Rob Wilson, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, closed his self-congratulatory speech with the following announcement.

” There is so much to look forward to in this sector. Indeed, I’m delighted to announce that over the coming months we’ll be developing a new youth policy statement. This statement will bring together a clear narrative and vision for how we best help our young people.

It will highlight the opportunities that come with our move to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport – how we can use our new position to give young people a greater engagement with our sporting and cultural heritage.

We want to benefit from your insights and wisdom. This new statement should draw on your experiences and celebrate the innovative work that is already happening.

I’m keen for it to act as a road map until at least 2020 and to show where this Government is heading with youth policy so you can see where to work with us along the way.

More than anything I want the statement to be a commitment to every young person. That we will help them pursue their passions, lead happy, independent lives and feel an active, engaged and valued part of their communities.”

For the moment we will leave to one side the gulf between the rhetoric of the last paragraph and the precarious reality facing so many young people and report our limited understanding of what’s going on re yet another ‘new’ policy statement. The best I can glean goes as follows:

According to Ambition, alongside sector colleagues, they have been working with the Youth Policy team at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to ensure a wide range of organisations and partners feed into the call for evidence to help inform the youth policy statement.

  1. As is often the case a degree of mystery surrounds the identity of the youth organisations ushered into the corridors of power at the DCMS. Clarification would be welcomed.
  2. As far as the consultation goes the DCMS are holding several regional workshops ‘aiming to engage groups of stakeholders that are representative of organisations involved in designing, delivering and funding youth provision’. One snag might be being recognised as a stakeholder. The events are invitation only.
  3. There is to be an online call for evidence from folk not holding big enough a stake, who can run their own workshops, armed with a facilitator’s brief from the DCMS.
  4. The ‘eagerly awaited’ policy statement will target six themes: a shared understanding of young people’s personal and social development; evidencing the impact of work with young people; developing a coherent local youth offer; making youth social action a habit for life; involving young people in decision-making; and securing an independent and sustainable youth sector.
  5. There’ll be no additional dosh as the state-subsidised, less than independent National Citizen Service has to pay for its adverts and mailshots, whilst missing its targets.

More informed and knowledgeable comments welcomed. And I was going to have an alcohol-free day.

Doug Nicholls on reviving trade union and popular education

We have pleasure in posting Doug’s thoughts on trade union education as a guest blog, accompanied by an advert for an enticing job opportunity with the General Federation of Trade Unions [GFTU] as an Education Officer and the Education for Action programme.

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eors-job-advert-education-officer-pdf – the advertisement

jd-education-officer – the job description

gftu-education-in-action-bklt-8-32629 – the programme

Doug Nicholls

TRADE UNION EDUCATION FOR SOCIAL CHANGE – join the discussion
Doug Nicholls, General Secretary of the General Federation of Trade Union, believes that trade union education urgently needs a revitalised content and a new method of delivery.
In an article in the Morning Star Dr John Fisher reminded us of the effect of years of state funding for trade union education. He who pays the piper calls the tune. A generation of trade union learners have had the political content stripped from their learning. I argue also that the form of training delivery has mirrored the neutralised content and helped to teach ignorance and obedience.
The Establishment teach their children to rule from an early age, prep school to public school to Oxbridge. At heart they learn the arrogant and confident mannerisms of rulers, an ability to talk about anything as if they know something about it.
They learn some concepts and history; this is why they focus on politics, philosophy and economics (PPE).
Once upon a time the best unions would engage workers in these subjects too. Courses would commence with discussions about the world we wanted to live in and the laws that underpin capitalist economics and a socialist alternative. This was done to develop understandings and convictions that would build our organisations and provide the motivation for learning the skills necessary to win for our members and transform the political scene.
This tradition was then turned on its head. Trade union training got locked into considerations of a very narrow range of technical and vocational areas, tutors became purveyors of information and facts, classes looked more like school rooms than workers discussion circles, qualification replaced empowerment, learners were told what to learn instead of encouraged to learn from their experience, rigid curricula stifled debate. As state-funded adult education disappeared, so elements of trade union training became a poor substitute, signposting learners to dwindling vocational opportunities while the market let rip.

 

 

It was all very interesting knowing the detail of redundancy and health and safety legislation, but all very irrelevant if the workplace was closing down as if because of forces of nature or fate. Education proved a thin shield as the post-war social democratic consensus and manufacturing based economy were being transformed into today’s neoliberal nightmare.
While most people feel that austerity is wrong, very few can articulate why it has come about and the political and economic alternative to it. In reality the popular consensus has bought into the whacky idea that the debt and deficit are the cause of our problems.
When bankers say they create wealth, few union reps seem able these days to counter this joke with an assertion of the labour theory of value and remind them that everything in their marble vaults comes from us. The effect of falling rate of profit has been forgotten and our problems attributed superficially to ‘greedy bankers.’
Worse still workers are being decapitated from the body of knowledge of our history of struggle as a Movement. We have to re-construct a living appreciation of our past to accelerate a better future.
There is clearly a desperate need to revive political, philosophical, historical and economic inquiry as the basis for trade union education.
Equally there is a need to modernise the methods of learning delivery to make it inspirational and life changing. A very peculiar thing has happened in Britain in this regard. The progressive debate on how workers learn best and what techniques really inspire them has almost completely bypassed trade union education circles and has been advanced instead in youth and community work, adult education and some school based traditions or radical pedagogy.
This is not the case in many other Labour Movements. They have embraced radical learning theories and methods that enhance the development of progressive politics and solid organisation. At the GFTU we have been looking at some of their work in Latin America, but look too at a book called Education for Changing Unions about the Canadian experience. Consider the work of Paulo Freire or Antonio Gramsci.
The way learning is delivered is as important as what is delivered, sometimes more so. Progressive learning techniques are linked to democratic practice and social change and have a long tradition in Britain going back to the Medieval ‘conventicles’ which argued that the Bible should be translated in English so that ‘the merest ploughboy could read the word of God’. Ultimately their work led to the collapse of the authority of the dominant Latin speaking Catholic Church and the aristocracy it propped up.
It continued through the dissenting churches whose ideas very much aided the birth of the unions, many Sunday schools were in fact very socialist. It flourished in Britain when many women trade unionists developed theories of youth engagement and community work to involve workers outside the workplace in the struggle for reforms. The richness of this tradition around the world can be explored on the fantastic website http://www.infed.org.uk.
The new priesthood of neoliberal pundits and politicians and the crowds of dilettante ‘economists’ who seek ultimately to persuade us that we are too stupid to run society in the interests of the majority, should be replaced by a new generation of deeply educated union activists able to see through the myths and compel us in another direction.
At the GFTU we have opened a forum on our website for all those interested in a progressive future for trade union education to swap notes, share details of good resources and examples and sharpen our minds. Please join the debate there http://www.gftu.org.uk. We are also looking for new partners and tutors to join our work delivering the highest quality independent working class education. Let’s change the content and form of trade union education and base it on participative, collective learning to demonstrate another world is possible with a new kind of PPE student in control of our country.

 

POSTSCRIPT

Ironically on the day we post Doug’s piece, there’s a long Guardian read, PPE: the Oxford degree that runs Britain