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It’s Monday morning and the start of a year 7 English class at Highbury Grove school, a large comprehensive in north London. The students have been played the soundtrack to a film and hands are creeping up as they are questioned about the role background music plays in setting the mood. Answers are tentative, but as the pace picks up, their vocabulary strengthens with discussion of “foreshadowing” and “transition” and “perspective”. Encouraged by their young hipsterish teacher,
The Truth About Our Schools
“A superb, crucial, blistering expose of all the myths about our education system that are all too often used to attack it..” Owen Jones
If you want to know more about the content of, and background to, the book please look at this piece on the Local School Network or read the text of my launch lecture. Janet Downs and Melissa Benn were also chosen as November 2015 Authors of the Month by Routledge.
Who She Is
Melissa Benn is a writer and campaigner. Her journalism has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Independent, The Independent on Sunday, The Times, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Record, Marxism Today, the London Review of Books, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Public Finance and the New Statesman. She is currently a regular contributor to The Guardian and New Statesman.
Melissa has published eight books including two novels: Public Lives and One of Us. Her non-fiction works include Madonna and Child: Towards a New Politics of Motherhood; School Wars: The Battle for Britain’s Education and What Should We Tell Our Daughters? The Pleasures and Pressures of Growing Up Female.
Melissa is a regular speaker and broadcaster. She has written and presented several Radio Four programmes and has been a guest on the Today programme, Woman’s Hour, Saturday Live, A Good Read and the Sky Book Show. She is an honorary patron of the Cambridge Literary Festival and has spoken at the Hay, Edinburgh, Bath and Cheltenham literary festivals, among many others, and numerous seminars and public meetings on education, feminism and general equality issues.
Melissa is currently Chair of Comprehensive Future, a cross-party group campaigning for an end to selective education. She is on the Council of the New Visions Group, a founder member of the Local Schools Network and a member of the Oxford Women in the Humanities Advisory Board.
Other Recent Posts
Sheila Rowbotham’s latest book plunges us straight into the ferment of the 1880s in Bristol, one of the many cities in Britain set alight in the late-Victorian era by a mixture of radical liberalism, socialism and the rapid growth of trade unionism. Part political chronicle, part emotional narrative, it opens with the story of the blossoming friendship of two fiercely determined women, Miriam Daniell and Helena Born, both from bourgeois backgrounds and drawn towards “unconventional ideas and dangerous causes”.
So now we know for sure, thanks to the permanent secretary at the Department for Education, who really ought to order in some document folders pronto. Jonathan Slater slipped up outside No 10, accidentally revealing a briefing note, and thereby confirming that Theresa May’s government does indeed intend to open new selective schools – although this is only to be pursued “once we have worked with existing grammars to show how they can be expanded and reformed”.
What They Say
‘(A highlight was) seeing Melissa Benn and David Aaronovitch, both highly skilled in the art of arguing, trade verbal blows at this year’s (absolutely packed) New Statesman debate.’
Tom Gatti, Culture editor, New Statesman.
Melissa Benn… spoke brilliantly … about the challenges women are facing today … Benn is a first-rate public speaker.’
The Daily Telegraph
‘Benn grapples eloquently with character, self, confidence, anger, the unquantifiable but elemental traits that makes us human…’
Financial Times on What Should We Tell Our Daughters?
‘One novel that stands out for me is Melissa Benn’s ‘One of Us,’ just out in England from Chatto & Windus. It’s an insider look at politics and power, but it’s a rich and heart-breaking novel in its own right. I can’t get it out of my mind.’
Sara Paretsky on One of Us.
‘This is a tremendous book … [a] passionate polemic about the most important policy divide of the day. The book’s publication marks out her out as one of Britain’s foremost advocates of comprehensive education.’
Anthony Seldon,in the Observer, on School Wars
‘Extraordinary………an emotional and political tour de force.’
Independent on Sunday on One of Us.
‘Insightful, deeply affecting.’“
Time Out on One of Us.
‘Never has it been more urgent to publicise the truth about what works and doesn’t work in our education system. ..This hugely important book should be required reading for each new Education Secretary.’
Caroline Lucas MP on The Truth About Our Schools.
Exceptional……….The language is stunning; controlled, yet very powerful and evocative, and the tale is told with incredible subtlety.
Helena Kennedy on Public Lives.
‘Subtle and insightful, a precise – and compassionate – glimpse into a time and a milieu…’
Anne Michaels, author of Fugitive Pieces, on Public Lives.