I have published the odd obituary on Organized Rage, the subjects of which have mainly been life long left-wing political activists and trade unionists. However other day I received an email from a friend in which he wrote that it is sad to read of the steady disappearance of good old campaigning socialists, trade unionists and similarly admirable people. I wonder whether there are enough such people coming through now for the obituarists in say 50 years from now to write about, I to have thought about this.
Fortuitously the following day I got my answer when I had a visit from a young relation who told me about a recent protest mounted by the pupils in her school. After hearing her tale, [below] it made me feel that if the younger generation as a whole shows the same spirit as the youngsters at her school, then the Obituary writers of tomorrow will have plenty of work on their hands.
Students Rebel at Essex school and demand their democratic rights.
By Essex school student.
Basically, the school is introducing this thing called ‘Vertical Tutoring’ in September. What that means is that instead of being in a form group with around 25 people from your year, you will be in a form group with 3 to 4 people from every year (years 7 – 13). No one wants it to happen, because when you first start the school, in year 7, the kids in older years (even the ones in year 8, only one year above you) are fairly intimidating. The older years, 10 and 11, tend to find the younger kids rather irritating. Years 12 and 13 are in sixth form, so it is obvious that they would not want to be mixed with the rest of the school having left, and joined sixth form to be separate from the younger kids.
The Head-teacher is bringing this change about despite the fact that when they put it in front of the school council (which is made up of students from all years), ALL Members Voted Against It.
A girl in my year organized the protest, and at the end of morning break we were marching round the school with posters, and chanting “No to V.T” (V.T being vertical tutoring).
People tend to follow a large group of people moving in the same direction at school, because it normally means they are moving towards something interesting.
So, as they moved round the school, pretty much everyone joined them. The head-teacher was shouting at people, and a large group formed around her in a circle. A boy near her was waving a “No to V.T” poster, and she ripped it out of his hands, screwed it up, threw it on the floor and stamped on it.
We moved onto the field, and everyone was chanting “No to V.T”, despite the fact that many of the year 11’s will not even be here next year to see it come into effect. The teachers came onto the field and were trying to chase after people, which resulted in everyone running in different directions, aware of the fact that even if one of us was caught, the teachers could not forcibly move us.
Also, many teachers do not want vertical tutoring to come in, so were not really making much of an effort to stop us. We left the field eventually, and people were running through the school shouting “No to V.T” and writing it on anything within reach. There are light bulbs that, when switched on, project “No To V.T” on to the floor. Posters were stuck up everywhere around school. Teachers were patrolling the school to try and round up pupils and get them back to lessons. Many went back to lessons, but only because it was getting too difficult to move around the school without being rounded up.
Around 200-300 pupils remained on the field, sitting down and singing ‘we shall not be moved’. Around this time somebody in my year called the Brentwood Gazette and one of their reporters came down and interviewed quite a few people. People were still running around inside the school building chanting. By this time it was nearly lunchtime, 2 hours after the protest had begun.
At lunch time there were still lots of teachers around, but nobody saw any point of kicking it all off again at lunchtime because everyone was outside anyway, so it was better to wait until form time, or last lesson. The ironic thing was, the ski trip was leaving that lunchtime, on a coach to Austria, and the Head-teacher was going on it. What a day to leave the country!
We went to form time, and afterwards there was another march through the school, and then people dispersed to go to last lesson. I had physics, and my teacher was very much in support of the protest. She did not attempt to teach a lesson, instead letting us either go and join the protesters that remained outside, or to watch it from the windows. The people who were on the field earlier were still there.
Teachers were at this point clutching at straws, and I was outside with my friend J. Because he was chanting “No to V.T” a teacher told him that he was being identified as the ring leader, and took his name. After this we went back up to Physics to see what other people were doing. Within 15 minutes of us being back, the teacher from outside had called J mum, and she had called J to tell him. She has told the teacher that free speech is a human right and they should be encouraging the children to fight for their rights, not discouraging it. They were hardly in a position to argue after that.
Now it is half term, so we have a weeks break before we go back to the speeches about how we ‘behaved like animals’ (I’ll bet you that comes up, it’s a favorite line of theirs). Apparently another protest is being planned for when we go back, so we shall see.*
* The photo above was taken from the Lindsay Anderson movie If, which was about a students revolt at an English public school.