Skip to main content
article icon

Occupy: coming to a secondary near you

news | Published in TES magazine on 20 January, 2012 | By: Stephen Exley

The protest movement's outreach programme is targeting schools

Whether you regard it as a noble act of resistance against the destructive forces of capitalism or just a bunch of lefties causing trouble, the Occupy protest outside St Paul's Cathedral in London has aroused strong passions at both ends of the political spectrum.

Since it was founded on 15 October, the camp has been a focal point for the global Occupy movement, which is working to highlight economic inequality, social injustice and corporate greed. The camp has not been without its controversies: it led to the week-long closure of the cathedral in late October and the fallout from plans to forcibly evict the protesters prompted the resignations of three senior church officials.

But after attracting dozens of young people to classes at its "Tent City University" during the October half-term, Occupy will next week take its outreach programme into a new arena: schools. The group has been invited to discuss how Occupy works in a citizenship class for 150 sixth-formers at the Bishop's Stortford High School in Hertfordshire.

Former English, drama and citizenship teacher and Occupy protester Jamie Kelsey-Fry, who is leading the school outreach campaign, told TES that several more schools are keen to organise visits. "What we are not going to do is tell young people what they should be concerned about," he said. "We will help them consider how to deal with issues they think are important. We have assemblies where everyone has their say equally; the students are encouraged to create their own campaigns."

Mr Kelsey-Fry insists pupils will not be indoctrinated with Occupy's beliefs. "We want them to further their own ways of engagement. It's not a recruiting situation. We just want to tell them what Occupy is about. We want to be empowering and enabling them so they become a more informed younger generation." And, with 23 years' experience of teaching in London schools, Mr Kelsey-Fry believes the group's ethos fits neatly into the citizenship curriculum.

The Bishop Stortford High School's head of citizenship, Simon Etheridge, who invited Occupy, agrees. "I invited Occupy to stimulate debate and discussion among the students about their politics and their world at the moment, as well as their views, for and against, about the protest outside St Paul's Cathedral," he said. "This will be balanced by future speakers ... We are not here to 'corrupt the young' - we host all respectable and appropriate political parties."

Not surprisingly, some have concerns. Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: "I think schools should be open to all opinions but, in this particular case, I think it is something that is too controversial.

"It is unlikely they will present enough balance on this issue, given the emotion surrounding it at the moment. I don't think schools should be dabbling in current political issues. It's a dangerous area for them to get involved in."


Subscribe to the magazine

5 average rating

Comment (6)

  • The chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, in his "concern", may have overlooked a need for such a discussion. A discussion that we could all be a part of. Yes, even in schools. As suggested by Mr. Kelsey-Fry, this type of simulation may empower and enable a younger generation to inform themselves.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    10:37
    20 January, 2012

    mrmistry

  • Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: "I think schools should be open to all opinions but, in this particular case, I think it is something that is too controversial. It is unlikely they will present enough balance on this issue, given the emotion surrounding it at the moment. I don't think schools should be dabbling in current political issues. It's a dangerous area for them to get involved in."

    The Campaign for Real Education is a right-wing pressure group. The group campaigns to "press for higher standards and ''more parental choice'' in state education,"; it openly supports grammar schools. I cannot see how Chris McGovern comments can be anything other than HIS PRIVATE OPINION as the group do not hold policies in this area.

    I do wish the TES would ''do'' journalism instead of allowing private indiviuals who front extreme political associations like the Campaign for Real Education bleat on about their own narrow views.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    18:03
    20 January, 2012

    Brooke Bond

  • The fact that 'Brook Bond' thinks it's right-wing to support higher standards and parental choice (including state grammar schools) shows how far to the left he or she is, perhaps without knowing it!
    Instead of making childish comments using a pseudonym, perhaps he or she would explain exactly what could be ‘right- wing’ about choice and high standards in state education? And, perhaps, why parents or anyone else should not talk to journalists ? What planet is Brook Bond living on?
    Meanwhile, readers should know that our policies are discussed and plainly articulated on our website for all to see (www.cre.org.uk). Readers should also know that Chris McGovern was a trade union member for 35 years and served on the TUC!
    Nick (Seaton)
    Campaign for Real Education.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    17:02
    22 January, 2012

    free-spirit

  • Well, the first Occupy outreach session in a school went incredibly well. It may be best to ask the school, the Citizenship teacher and the young people to confirm that though.

    Debating the think tank's comment at the end is neither here nor there in my opinion, far more useful to consider the excellent example of Citizenship teaching that the school has shown, by inviting a broad spectrum of speakers to come and talk on a regular basis, from Peter Tatchell to the local Conservative MP, from a holocaust survivor to Occupy.

    The young people had excellent questions to ask and took the eight strong team to task admirably.

    As I explained in the interview, this is Citizenship, this is not 'recruiting' or 'indoctrinating' . It is crediting young people with the ability to tackle controversial issues and decide for themselves.

    In our main workshop session, the young people used Occupy's Peoples' Assembly techniques of participatory democracy to go into break out groups to choose what issue was most of concern to the group and then discuss ways of taking informed and responsible action in order to tackle these issues.

    The Occupy team were made up of a broad spectrum of those in the movement. I was the only qualified teacher.

    All of us had an excellent learning experience and the teacher stated that it was by far one of the most successful talks that the school had held.

    This article should be opening a debate about what Citizenship can achieve, not the merits of the think tank at the end.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    11:23
    28 January, 2012

    jamiekelsey

  • free-spirit or is it Nick (Seaton) Campaign for Right-wing Education?

    Quote:'The fact that 'Brook Bond' thinks it's right-wing to support higher standards and parental choice (including state grammar schools) shows how far to the left he or she is, perhaps without knowing it!'

    It's a he, sunshine. And actually it is right-wing to support state grammar schools as the EVIDENCE clearly shows they were and still ARE elite organisations aimed at the privilaged exploiting more resources per pupil than non-elite schools. Feel free to list any EVIDENCE which joins 'higher standards' for all pupils with any state grammar school.

    Quote: 'Instead of making childish comments using a pseudonym, perhaps he or she would explain exactly what could be ‘right- wing’ about choice and high standards in state education?'

    My comments are not childish; they are evidence based. My pseudonym is used to protect my job. My employer would not be too happy with anything anti-Gove as they'd lose valuable contracts. Nothing ever, under Labour, reflects the CONTROL Gove is imposing on all support agencies.

    There have been many studies into grammar school education. Nearly all conclude that a grammar school education is 'good' for those who go to the grammar school but 'bad' for the system as a whole. Many also conclude that grammar schools appear to select pupils by 'class' and parental social capital than 'ability'.

    Quote: 'Readers should also know that Chris McGovern was a trade union member for 35 years and served on the TUC!'

    And what does THAT mean? Have you classed me as left-wing and so I must be automatically on the side of the TUC, or vice versa? Does being a member of the TUC stop Chris McGovern from making an idiot of himself? Sorry Tory-boy but life isn't that simple.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    15:23
    28 January, 2012

    Brooke Bond

  • jamiekelsey

    Well said. It is YOU who is campaigning for REAL Education not the Tory-scum tactics of the likes of Nick Seaton.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    15:28
    28 January, 2012

    Brooke Bond

Add your comment

Subscribe to the magazine
Join TES for free now

Join TES for free now

Four great reasons to join today...

1. Be part of the largest network of teachers in the world – over 2m members
2. Download over 600,000 free teaching resources
3. Get a personalized email of the most relevant resources for you delivered to your inbox.
4. Find out first about the latest jobs in education