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Rescue Our Schools: Award-winning Upper Holloway campaigner on cuts, academies, scrapping SATs and exclusions

PUBLISHED: 11:07 29 May 2019 | UPDATED: 12:01 29 May 2019

Madeleine Holt recieving her award at the National Education Union conference. Picture: Supplied

Madeleine Holt recieving her award at the National Education Union conference. Picture: Supplied

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An Upper Holloway campaigner who co-founded the Rescue Our Schools resource to combat education cuts scooped a prestigious award last month.

Madeleine Holt was given National Education Union's Fred & Ann Jarvis Award on April 18 in recognition of her parent-led campaign to lobby cental government for well funded and locally accountable state education.

Madeline, 53, helped establish the group three years ago to oppose local funding cuts and forced academisation - and it has since become a popular resource on Facebook. She became involved with More than a Score, a coalition of parents, teachers and education experts campaigning for alternatives to SATS and other "high-pressure testing" in primary schools, the same year.

"I am thrilled," Madeleine told the Gazette. "Especially since previous winners include Malala, Michael Rosen, and Melissa Benn. I think this is a very exciting time to be a campaigner.

"I am really inspired by the way environmental campaigners have moved the debate on climate change, and I think this needs to happen next with education."

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Madeline said she was "delighted" when her MP Jeremy Corbyn pledged to abolish SATs in his National Education Union conference speech last month.

"The next area we really need to look at is the quality of education in all schools," she said. "For too many students school has become an exam factory. We need to educate children for life, not for tests - just as Jeremy said.

"You can see the toll the system is taking on teenagers having to endure an entire month of extremely hard GCSEs - it is agony to watch. Memorising and regurgitating facts does not make an education."

She attests the shift towards an automated economy means young people need "deeper skills of creativity and critical thinking", as well as community issues. The campaigner added: "I believe the exclusion rate we are seeing in some schools is partly due to the fact too many students find the narrow, highly academic and standardised curriculum just plain boring. A few schools are trying to challenge this but the real innovation is happening abroad while we go back to a Victorian model of education which doesn't help anyone."

Islington saw 34 students expelled from its primary and secondary schools' last year - higher than the national average.

Madeleine also runs the social enterprise Meet the Parents, which started at Yerbury primary school in Islington 8 years ago. It brings together panels of families from the local comprehensives to talk to primary school parents about what their secondary education is really like.

She was culture correspondent on Newsnight in her earlier career at the BBC, and now makes films for state schools and about innovation in education.

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