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Mumsnet campaigns and alliances

(249 Posts)
JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 13-Nov-09 10:15:37

Morning Mumsnetters,
Following on from something someone blush suggested a while back, we want to think about how we might use our MN muscle to campaign on things that matter to us - like miscarriage, breastfeeding support, premature sexualisation of children (toddler thongs) etc and also how we go about building links with voluntary sector organisations to increase that muscle. Policywonk and Onebat, dynamic duo that they are - have rashly agreed to collect our thoughts/help out a bit with organisation - so we'd be very grateful if you could let us have your two penneth worth on any and all of this stuff.
Many thanks.

singlemumsaresuper Fri 20-Nov-09 23:38:56

Please campaign for positive coverage and support for single mums. Any mum who saw Question Time yesterday, 19 November 2009, should be horrified at witnessing the desingeneously deliberate and totally unfair malignment metered out by Chris Grayling (Conservative MP)against single mums - in response to a debate about the relative underperformance of poor white boys in comparison to other ethnic groups he chose to state that this was due to family breakdown and a lack of male role model (?). Quite how he interpreted that from the facts and statistics is a conundrum, but it highlights a common prejudice for his political party, the media and mainstream employers. For example, just how deliberate is it that many employers are moving to shift work for jobs that were previously relatively easily managable around school hours (and this is not just in the private sector as a case has highlighted just this week by staff at teh Conservative run Croydon Council)? Tricky enough for a parent to juggle when they have the support of a partner - impossible for the parent without such support. Whether single through the death, abandonment or split from partner, the fact remains that life is tough for single parents and our present society makes it tougher still. And how can anyone expect this vulnerable group of families to better themselves when the powers that be continue to scapegoat and malign them? So, MN to the rescue please - campaign for a positive portrayal of single mums and help secure their positive profile and inclusion now and in the future. I know it's a tough one - single mums has been subjected to witch hunts since time began, but I'm sure MN can do it!

Diamonday Sat 21-Nov-09 16:48:42

My local shop stocks a product called Nido. Its a full-cream milk powder and is fine for cooking. It says on the tin in very tiny letters, in among many different languages, that it's not suitable for babies under 12 months. But *it's shelved in amongst the baby milks* and of course it's much cheaper than them. This is a Nestle product and it's sold in many countries where babies do get fed on it, as it's cheaper. I live in a highly multi-cultural area and I'm sure that's why the local shops sell it amongst the baby milk. I've pointed out to the shop's staff that mothers will think it's OK for babies because it's on that shelf, and babies' health will suffer, but nothing has changed. My local Trading Standards department says it has no powers to deal with this, though they recognise the problem.
I'd like Mumsnet to campaign that no milk product not specifically designed for babies can be displayed for sale within 2 metres of the baby milk.

MoChan Sat 21-Nov-09 22:13:08

I began a Facebook page *against pink*. I know some people think it's a trivial thing, but I honestly think it's the tip of a very, very dark iceberg (which encompasses the sexualisation of children and all that).

cityangel Sun 22-Nov-09 00:13:13

Please continue to make expectant Mums aware of Group B Strep

litbug Mon 23-Nov-09 11:59:53

Am a new mnter of a certain age and want to say that life with babies may seem tough BUT it can get worse!I need to warn all those parents of young who move in with partners and who are being asked to be 'Bank of Mum & Dad'. Be very very careful. Get LOTS of legal advice - it might cost a lot, but it might save a lot when things with your darlings go utterly pear-shaped. Our dd surprised us 5 yrs ago by buying a house with her boyfriend; she'd always run a mile from committment. We helped with a deposit, they did up a wreck, and all was beautiful for a while. She later asked for a loan to pay off the mortgage (about to rise to 8%) and a monthly payment was agreed, which dd paid - partner paid her 'rent' - to avoid him declaring any asset in his divorce settlement. With me so far?

Then it all went wrong. He found other women, and when dd was working away on a contrct moved his latest into the house, removed dd's name from the voting register and the council tax register. Dd came back, tried to get him out of house and her life; he went to a solicitor. We tried to have our interest in the property registered with the Land Registry - which we should have done at the time of the loan, of course. Toxic ex tried to say the money was agift to them both - as if! dd had the paperwork proving payments to us by her - so registration of our interest then went thro. One would think that the easiest solution would have been to sell the house, pay us back, pay sales costs and share the remaining equity between the two of them? Too easy!! Toxic Ex & his solicitor stopped the sale of the house for a month (meanwhile 2 lots of solicitors are smiling all the way to the bank - and all for a house worth 160K.) Toxic was still living in the house - police were called when he broke down a door - and was very abusive - but no action to protect a small female. She lost weight and developed v high bp. He wanted a huge pay off (must have thought v highly of his prowess?) In the end dd WAS allowed to sell her house and to get closure, agreed to let him have all the equity (after we'd been paid what was outstanding to us and sales costs were deducted; not a lot and probably won't pay off his legal fees. 11 months after it all began the matter is STILL not finished because of another legal cock-up, which might be resoved soon, tho' I've given up hope of being able to sleep at night. Laweyers have been kept happy, dd will be back at square 1 re 'foot on property ladder'; toxic ex has moved on to the next besotted female. The LAW may have been served but Justice looks rather ailing.

As I said at the start, get legal advice and double check it all; it will be cheaper in the long run

Cobon Mon 23-Nov-09 13:46:42

Hello I'm new to this but have a couple of suggestions.. firstly, there is a long running campaign to protect Independent Midwives from being driven out of business by government legislation regarding their insurance. More info available at Independent Midwives as the name suggests are not employed by the NHS and offer services directly to Mums mainly for home birth and also contracted out services to the NHS. Their care is truly the gold standard as I can personally testify and is invaluable if you live in an area where homebirth is 'not allowed'. We should have choice and without them we won't not to mention all the skills that will be lost. My othjer suggestion is about washable nappies. I used them without any hassle for both of my kids and it would be good to let other mums know that using them doesn't ruin your life and saves you money.

jackstarbright Mon 23-Nov-09 19:56:49

As mentioned by Wilfsell, a campaign to address the disadvantages of being a summer born child in the English* education system would be a good one for Mumsnet. It is one of the most common worries on the education threads with thousands of postings and this whole issue is in danger of 'sliping through the cracks' in the run up to the election.

Gordon Brown didn't really address it in his MN Webchat. His comment "our reports suggest that its better to start [school?] earlier than six" showed that he had been poorly briefed on the Jim Rose /IFS reports and the Cambridge Primary Review. Quite worryingly, he appears to believe the issue has been resolved (by Rose) and doesn't need any further attention.

David Cameron ignored the issue totally (maybe it got lost in his laptopsmile).

We should have a campaign to make sure the 'relative age effect' inequality in our schools is pushed higher up the education agenda. What specifically we want done is a harder question. The most talked about options are:

1. To allow flexibiltiy in reception starting age for summerborns (to allow a delay in starting reception to the September after a child turns 5).

2. To push back the age at which all children start 'formal education' (as recommended by The Cambridge Primary Review).

3. To teach primary children in narrower age cohorts. e.g in a 3 class year - have an autumn born, winter born and summer born class.

Can we campaign on the high level issue - that our education system is unfair to summerborns and this needs addressing or do we need to be more specific?

Some research:

The evidence suggests that the youngest children in any school year will, on average, have poorer outcomes in terms of qualifications (GCSE and A'level) and are more likely to have a SEN, mental health issues, and even a prison record, than older children in the school year.

A very comprehensive UK report on this is the NFER Report - it is a few years old. However the government has recently commissioned an IFS report When you are born matters for academic outcomes: urgent policy action needed to help summer-born children. I have an issue with some of the recommendations but the findings are pretty conclusive.

There are many more reports - just google 'relative age effects'.

Note: *Scotland already allow flexible reception start dates and Wales are moving back their formal learning start age to 6/7years old.

Mini confession - I cut and pasted most of the above from my postings on the "Following Ed Balls Webchat..."thread.

jackstarbright Mon 23-Nov-09 21:15:41

Also meant to put in link to 'Following Ed Balls Webchat...thread. here for anyone interested in this issue.

mulberrybush Mon 23-Nov-09 22:14:47

Should we be supporting the global poverty promise

linglette Tue 24-Nov-09 09:23:52

Agree with Jackstarbright.

linglette Tue 24-Nov-09 09:28:36

Sorry, to save people looking it up, I should have said that I agree with Jackstarbright that we should campaign for greater flexibility in relation to school starting age, and as a priority an abolition of the "punishment policy" whereby anyone who has the courage to defer the start of their child's formal education until the statutory school starting age of 5.0 is punished by the child being placed straight into year 1.

LeninGrad Tue 24-Nov-09 09:29:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MsDav Tue 24-Nov-09 09:47:18

Mum of two late summer born boys here and in total agreement with Jackstarbright here. Flexibility is the key, eldest son was totally ready to start school and thrived despite ADHD and Tourettes diagnosis. Youngest child absolutely not ready and could have done with starting a year later IMHO

whereareyou Tue 24-Nov-09 10:23:54

I also feel strongly about flexibilty/choice to be built into the start date of reception and would favour a system similar to Scotland.

jackstarbright Tue 24-Nov-09 11:26:52

Linglette - Thanks for your post on the other thread - I couldn't find the strength myself!!

LeniGrad - The point we need to get across is that all children will benefit from the youngest and most immature being treated fairly. It is pointless forcing a child into a learning stage before they are ready (be it reception, year 1 or beyond). They can become frustrated and disruptive and take up a disproportionate amount of the teacher's time and school resources. And I doubt there are many MN's who, if they are honest, are happy for their dc to sit next a disruptive child.

MoChan Tue 24-Nov-09 11:27:05

I also think the summer born thing should be a big issue. Not just an academic thing, either, it affects their chances of doing well in sport, etc (I was convinced by the bit on this in Malcolm Gladwell's 'Outliers' book).

Deadworm Tue 24-Nov-09 11:42:32

I think Lenin is right that issues a summer-borns campaign might not be entirely unanimous. On the summer-borns thread I mentioned a couple of concerns about it. There is the difficulty of establishing flexible entry in a way that wouldn't be disproportionately accessed by better-off families (because they could afford longer private childcare or a parent at home for longer), thus leaving poorer summer-borns doubly disadvantaged.

And there is also the difficulty of (presumably) having to choose a new rather arbitrary cut-off point beyond which the option to defer would not be given. Say that children born May-to-August were allowed to defer. Parents of April-born children might feel aggrieved that their child could be in a class with children up to 16 months older.

The resources needed to counter these problems might be better used in ensuring that classrooms and teachers have good resources to cope with the age-range they accomodate.

A mass educational system can't be limitlessly sensitive to all of the gradations of need, and too much attention to the challenges faced by summer-borns might mean a reduction in resources elsewhere.

linglette Tue 24-Nov-09 12:17:10

Deadworm, do you know anything about receptive language delay and the effect it has on a child's ability to learn and interact? Trust me, whilst my year-deferred son will be the oldest in reception in September 2010 by a whole 15 days (hardly a period of time likely to make him stand out) he will be very very far from the most mature sad. It will not be him that the parents of the non-deferred August-borns will be wistfully comparing their child to when they worry about their own earlier start.......

Surely the answer is to make the choice a realistic option for all children, in particular for all children where the parents' view on immaturity/delay is backed up by NHS health professionals and by the teachers (where they are in a position to know the child)?

No one is suggesting a Danish style system of universal deferral.

Parents who did not have enough resources to make the right choice for their child at the reception entry level could still consider repeating reception rather than sending the child straight into the tougher Year 1 level. It is not too late to defer at that stage. That is perhaps the answer to the social mobility question.

Deadworm Tue 24-Nov-09 12:50:50

Does universal deferral mean deferral simply at the parents' request? Clearly there are cases where deferral is needed, as a matter of consultation between parents, teachers, and NHS professionals. There is a whole area of special need among children whose difficulties are real but don't quite amount to the formal category of 'special need'

My concern is with a system where delayed entry is purely as a matter of parental choice, not because I don't believe that parents are well-placed to assess their child's readiness or otherwise for school but because of the problems I mention in my last post, and because of the realism we need about the ability of a mass system to limitlessly accomodate individual variety.

LeninGrad Tue 24-Nov-09 13:19:41

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Deadworm Tue 24-Nov-09 16:03:33

(In my reply to linglette I ought to have said that in the case of receptive language delay or any other special learning problem we ought to consider the deferral not as a (purely) age-based deferral but one based on a particular diagnosis -- so that, for example, the deferral ought to be permitted for that diagnosis wherever necessary, regardless of what month the child was born. I can see that age and diagnosis work together here to disadvantage the child, but it would be a mistake to make age the key criterion, I think, for the reasons I mentioned earlier, especially the possible renforcement of class/income-related disadvantage.)

jackstarbright Tue 24-Nov-09 20:26:59

LeninGrad. The government are concerned about the relative age disadvantage in our education system, hence the IFS report and Ed Balls asking Jim Rose to look at it as part of his education review. Jim Rose's solution - all children start school the September after they are four years old is at odds with most of the other research in this area. Many parents of immature summer born dc's know, through their own personal experience, that this will not solve the inequality and may infact worsen things.

I support Lingelette's proposal for case by case, expert recommended, deferment for children clearly not ready to start reception. I don't think that this will totally address the age inequality effect. But at this stage I would be happy for this gov
(or the next) to take another look at the whole issue.

Mochan mentioned the Malcolm Gladwell book 'the Outliers'. I would recommend reading it (especially the chapter on relative age effect) before making up your mind on this issue. Interesting that he picked the English education system to use as his example.

WilfSell Tue 24-Nov-09 20:34:33

But Deadworm, is this really 'accommodating limitless individual variety'? A very real age effect is demonstrated in the research, and because educational assessment is based upon age cohorts at particular points in the year, there is never an opportunity for the younger cohort to catch up.

Unless some adjustment is made of some sort, the youngest are disadvantaged by the structure they are educated in. Of course there must be a cut off, but given that - unlike other cases of educational disdvantage such as gender or ethnicity - the disadvantage is linked to the structure itself AND is weighted to impact more on the youngest group (and most vulnerable to lasting impact), there is a good case for building in some flexibility. That would still need to be arbitrary but it could be less arbitrary if informed by the research. I read in the IFS report I think a recommendation of either age adjustment or negotiated deferral for June births... I seem to remember this was the date that made the most difference, though my memory of the research is sketchy.

Of course people claiming this is an important campaign have a vested interest in their children. And I think the social mobility and class issues are the knottiest issues here. But I am not sure what negative impact negotiated deferral would have on other children, except to level the playing field and thus perhaps reduce their own age advantage somewhat? As others have said it would reduce the amount of differentiation teachers have to do by presumably removing age effects from the classroom to some degree.

LeninGrad Tue 24-Nov-09 20:49:47

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Deadworm Tue 24-Nov-09 20:59:00

I agree that there is a difficulty for some summer-borns, of course. I suppose my main thought is that the solution is too complex and contentious to be be encapsulated in an MN campaign objective, particularly given the class/income thing. (I worry about a middle-class site like MN championing a campaign which, unless very carefully articulated might be better exploited by m/c parents).

The reason I've been drawn into thinking about it, btw, is that my DS1 is a late-August birthday by dint of being born three weeks early. If I'd just held tight (and not had that hot bath!) he would have been a whole year later at school -- and I would have been really anxious. He would have been academically disadvantaged by being the oldest in the class; and that makes me think that a purely age-based criterion for deferral would logically lead to too many demands by parents for tailor-made admission.

Eldest-in-year clearly do well in relation to cohort -- but perhaps less well in relation to their individual potential than less-old-in-class.

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