Memoirs – Chapter 2 – School Days and “policies”
Continuing from Memoirs – Chapter 1 – SAPE, the Russian Doll problem and the “black budget” of Merseyside Police I’m now moving on to school days and policies.
When I was ten (now called national curriculum year 6) I changed primary school from St Josephs Upton to St Josephs Birkenhead. This was nearly three decades ago and the year was 1991.
Each school had slightly different policies – I came from a family interested in politics though where policies were discussed and debated.
At the previous school very few kids like myself had asthma (maybe one in ten), but at the new one if memory serves correct around a third of the class did and so the school had a “policy” – at least this is how it was explained to me.
All medicines (including asthma inhalers) were to be handed in and were not permitted to be carried on your person. If needed for an asthma attack, access to asthma inhalers would be provided on request (but only during break times). If needed you were to cross the playground, go through a door, down a corridor, through more multiple doors, find the school secretary, explain (even though by this time you were short of breath) and find it in a box of about 30-40 other very similar looking asthma inhalers. Which when you’re asthmatic is about as problematic as doing the physical ability round of the Krypton Factor (which was a TV series shown at the time).
When this policy was first explained to me, I was confused, sought out other people with asthma and in the playground like some ten year old trade union organiser explained to my peer group that these working conditions needed to change, it was dangerous and more importantly what were we going to do about this?
I was listened to (views varied), but I was up against six years of the school telling mainly working class kids that they should do what they are told, not rock the boat and behave. It was explained I was new there, that I’d “get used to it”, “it wasn’t that bad really” etc. Some agreed with me – but didn’t want to “rock the boat” and would much prefer it if I did something about it instead of them.
This reaction surprised me but being ten I didn’t know who to lobby to get the policy changed (or indeed who decided on such policies) but the School Secretary seemed like a good place to start!
So I had an argument that first week with the School Secretary that went something along these lines:-
John: Why can’t I have my asthma inhaler with me for when I use it?
Secretary: It would be contrary to school policy. We keep it and you can request it when you need to use it.
John: I don’t understand (that’s not what I was told by the doctor).
Secretary: It’s kept in this box, if you need it at break times, come here and ask for it and I’ll let you look through the box.
John: Well I’ve talked to other people with asthma and we would like you to know that we are unhappy with this and some of us would like it changed please.
Secretary: Doesn’t change the policy though.
John: Well who decides the policy?
Secretary: Not me, I have other work to be getting on with!
So I tried “fitting in” and going along with this policy.
The second week after a week of the above regime I spent two days as an in-patient in Arrowe Park Hospital because the asthma had got worse and had to take the rest of the week off recuperating.
Ten year old John tried unsuccessfully changing policy but his attempts to change just met with an explanation and made about as much impact as speaking to the proverbial brick wall. Fitting in just ended up with John at hospital (which doesn’t get you out of school though as somebody has thought of that and put a school in the hospital).
In a general election, everyone who is allowed to vote aged 18 or over gets to decide who makes the policies and laws at the national level that impact us all from a list of candidates.
In Birkenhead we have a choice of six. Other constituencies on the Wirral (Wirral West, Wirral South and Wallasey) will also be choosing a Member of Parliament.
If power would listen or didn’t react badly to people standing up to power, then democracy wouldn’t be needed – but it is. If we want to contact our Member of Parliament we can (although during an election there are no Members of Parliament) – if we don’t agree with them we can vote for someone else. If we want laws changed we can complain about them.
Children on the other hand don’t get a vote, because adults are supposed to act in their best interests!
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