#WeekNotes S1E2 — First week of placement

As I mentioned last week in E1 of my #WeekNotes, due to the nature of Year Here’s social innovation course, myself and my fellow Fellows would spend the next 5 months ‘placed’ at the frontline of a public service — and this week would be our first week.

During our intense and exhausting but exciting bootcamp week, we had been briefed on what we might encounter over the next five months in areas that span across the ‘strands’ of housing (i.e. homeless hostels), wellbeing, community resilience (i.e. community centres), vulnerable youth and educational inequality (i.e. schools — of which I am placed in).

We all expected the time to be immersive and rewarding, but we were also aware of the shocking and potentially violent reality of what it is like to be at the frontline of services which are challenging at the best of times, let alone under the current conditions of austerity.

My Monday morning was met with a joyful 8am start. To get to work on time (which I obviously didn’t) I woke at 6:30am. The plan was morning yoga, a calm and nutritious breakfast and a leisurely stroll to work.

The reality was a snoozed alarm, an un-drunk cup of tea, a half eaten breakfast and a tube journey for the mere two stops I had to travel to reach my school in South London.

My morning was met with the intimidating allure of school gates — a sight that I was happy to turn my back on when I left school 6 years ago. A sight I would now need to embrace (or adapt to be less intimidating????). I was then understandably but uncomfortably unveiled in assembly to the 120 6th form students I would be working with, fighting back the glowing red lightbulb of a head I have from the slightest bit of embarrassment.

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Speaking to a group of insanely talented and smart students about the effect gentrification was having on the borough of Southwark and learning of their activism to address the issue. These were 17/18 year olds who they themselves had been displaced by the social cleansing and decided to oppose actively oppose it.
  2. School canteen food. You best believe it’s actually pretty scrumptious. Jamie Oliver and all that did a good job #bringbackturkeytwizzlersthough.
  3. Revisiting Year 7, 8 and 9 English, Maths and History classes (and realising that 12 year olds are better at maths than I am).
  4. Having my preconceptions and prejudices around those from different backgrounds from mine exposed and dismantled.

LEARNINGS

  1. 12 year olds are better at Maths than me.
  2. 12 year olds are better at English than me.
  3. Gentrification is not a victimless crime. The process is reminiscent of social cleansing. Previously an area was owned by the state and was provided as council/social housing that was affordable and catered towards the average earner. The state then decided to sell the land to the highest bidder. In turn, they ‘redevelop’ the area and bump up the price of accommodation to unfathomable prices that the previous residents will never be able to afford. The new private company make profits into the £100,000,000s and the previous residents are forced to relocate. Kids are forced into different schools and community’s. In 2014 the Heygate Estate in Elephant & Castle was demolished, scattering families as far as Wales. Residents were given 40% of the market value of their property. We buy into the facade that the redevelopment is necessary and good. We buy into the myth that all the people from working class backgrounds who live in these areas are grimey criminals. They’re not.
  4. The correlation between kids with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and low-income is maaaaajor. 1/3 of kids on free-school meals (a core metric for low-income) are classed as having SEN. Compared to 1/6th of all pupils.
  5. I am not cool. I overheard a girl say ‘this song slaaaappps’. At first I was confused. Then the fear and discomfort crept through my body. It dawned on me. I was now old and uncool.
  6. 12 year olds are better at I.C.T than me.
  7. Teachers are under-paid and under-valued. We stretch the f*ck out of them and pay them pennies and very little respect in return. This is a profession that is literally creating the future of our country and our world annnnnnnnd we. don’t. care.

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Passionate about redesigning unjust systems and structures and empowering people to prosper. Tweet tweeting @_mattpullen

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Matt Pullen

Passionate about redesigning unjust systems and structures and empowering people to prosper. Tweet tweeting @_mattpullen