On Wednesday 4 May the government sacked Natasha Devon from her unpaid post as mental health champion for schools. Evidently it concluded that the parents protest the day before against excessive testing, when thousands kept Year 2 children off school, showed that Devon was having too much effect.
Devon describes herself as a bleeding heart liberal leftie, but the government appointed her in August 2015 to show it was doing something about mental health. Devon continued to speak out. This government and the coalition before them have engineered a social climate where it's really difficult for any young person to enjoy optimal mental health. Parents work every hour God sends to make ends meet... spiralling poverty.
She pointed that anxiety is the fastest growing illness in under-21s, and three students in the average school classroom have a diagnosed mental illness. She linked that to a culture of testing and academic pressure detrimental to mental health, a fiercely competitive culture in schools, and a society of social inequality where fundamental values are set not by kindness but by consumerism. It's not actually me that's being silenced, she commented on the sacking, it's young people and teachers for whom she could be an amplifier. We won't be silenced. Now we need our unions and the Labour Party to take up the cause. No more exam factories! No more box-ticking in schools whose only purpose is to increase anxiety! Schools should about striking off what William Blake called the mind-forged manacles, not welding new ones.