Author Archives: Kirsten Johnson

We Are More Unequal Than Ever

My dismay over inequality was one of the two main issues (the other poor mental health care provision) which drove me into politics in 2014. I jumped in with both feet, determined to be a voice for the voiceless and make the world a more equal place.

But here we are in 2017 and the IPPR report just out shows we are more unequal than ever. The wealthiest 10% of households has five times the wealth of the bottom 50%. Absolutely ridiculous, that so much wealth is disproportionately in the hands of the few.

Our Lib Dem Leader, Vince Cable, who …

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The Love of Learning

What are we doing to our young people? Testing them until the joy is out of learning and school is just one tick box after another. The head of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, said

The regular taking of test papers does little to increase a child’s ability to comprehend.

We have completely the wrong approach to learning. We need holistic education for our young people, encompassing the widest range of subjects, building character and instilling the love of learning.

This includes the arts. When I was 11, we moved to Missouri. I started at a new junior high school (years 6-7 in the English system) which had a school band. Up to that stage I had played a bit of piano and sung in the church choir. The music teacher asked if I’d like to learn the clarinet as he needed more players in his band. Within three months I was sitting 2nd chair in the clarinet section. I would never have learned an instrument if it hadn’t been for the opportunity at this state school. I remember my parents, who were on a tight budget, scraping money together for some private lessons later that year, costing $4 a lesson.

Years later, I’m a professional musician, wondering where the next generation of musicians is coming from. We need music, and all the arts, as an integral part of our schools. The economic argument is obvious – the creative industries contribute £87.4 billion per year to the economy. We would be denuded as a society without the undergirding of the arts which permeate and enrich our lives.

But I wish to make the moral argument, bringing me back to the opening point of school being too much about testing. Having an arts-inclusive curriculum builds a well-rounded intellect. The brain, when it has to marry the left and right halves in analysing and performing a piece of music, develops physiologically. Attention spans are lengthened when one learns to concentrate on playing your part in a band. Aesthetic awareness is broadened, that life is not about ticking boxes but about beauty, relationships and creativity. Learning to sing together builds community and teaches young people to work together. We learn that coming together produces something more wonderful than striving alone.

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Our New Disability Policy

Have you heard about the Disabled Children’s Partnership? It was launched over the summer by a large group of charities, including Mencap, Contact and The Children’s Trust. The network now links more than fifty organisations who support children with a range of conditions, from the Fragile X Society and the Down’s Syndrome Association to Young Lives with Cancer CLIC Sargent and the Myotonic Dystrophy Support Group.

So how do the Disabled Children’s Partnership priorities tally with our new party disability policy? (Did you know …

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Time To Get Ready For World Mental Health Day

What is your workplace doing on World Mental Health Day? It’s coming up on Tuesday, October 10th, and the theme is Workplace Mental Health.

Ask your boss, line manager and co-workers if anything is planned. If not, do something! There’s still time to organise an event to raise awareness on Tuesday that we all have mental health. De-stigmatising that conversation in the workplace is paramount.

The charity Mind has some excellent tips for improving Workplace Mental Health here. Maybe one of these can be something your office does together …

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