Upcoming And Recent Events

Thursday 26 January 2017 16:15 – 17:15

‘The great grammar school debate: an intellectual ding-dong to end the day…’

A chance to hear the core arguments both for and against grammar schools in the UK, based on status of Government plans at the time of writing. Should there be a role for selection in the English education system? 5 minutes opening statements, followed by questions from debate chair Ed Dorrell, Deputy Editor, TES Global and a final audience vote. Real-time polling via Glisser will also provide feedback from leaders in the room throughout the debate and indicate whether opinion has changed on the merit of arguments put forward.

Lewis Iwu
Lewis Iwu
Fair Education Alliance
Mark Morrin
Mark Morrin
Principal Research Consultant
Melissa Benn
Melissa Benn
Writer & Campaigner
Shaun Fenton
Shaun Fenton
Reigate Grammar School



Saturday 11 February 2017: UCU’s fourth major ‘Cradle to Grave Conference’….

Following the vote to leave the European Union in June 2016, the theme will be: Education without borders? What next for further and higher education in a post-BREXIT world.  

The conference is ticket only, but free to members.

The keynote speaker will be shadow chancellor John McDonnell MPOpens new window.

We will also be joined by award winning political commentator Steve ‘rock n roll politics’ Richards author and campaigner Melissa Benn and former vice chancellor Sir Peter Scott among others.

There will be two workshops for further and higher education members featuring leading academics.

This is a great opportunity for UCU members to meet and discuss the issues of the day with leading politicians and commentators as well as meet other UCU members.

Last year’s conference was sold out within 24 hours and given the likely high demand, tickets are strictly limited so please apply today



February 14th 2017 


Our Literary Salon with writer Melissa Benn  is Tues, 14 Feb. Book:  @mamauthor @WritingatWDC2jrJnCWIAAl_Gk


Saturday March 4th 2017 11am-4pm

Changes to the education system and Labour and co-operative responses will be the subject of the ILP’s next Unbalanced Britain meeting in Sheffield on Saturday 4 March. 

With esteemed speakers Melissa Benn and Julie Thorpe, the seminar will examine how changes to the education system have served to increase inequality and widen the gap between the privileged few and the majority; discuss the Labour Party’s response over the last decade or so; and look at how co-operative schools are trying to establish a different set of values in the education system.

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Benn is a writer and campaigner on education, and current chair of the cross-party group campaigning group Comprehensive Forum, while Thorpe is schools programmes manager at the Co-operative College.

More information about the event and details of how to book are available now via Eventbrite.

Click here for a copy of our leaflet about the event, including start and finish times, and an outline of the programme.




6th Annual Lecture – ‘Thoroughly entertaining and deeply moving’

“The Quality of Mercy: anger, forgiveness and making peace with the past’” was the thought-provoking title of the 2016 Forgiveness Project Annual Lecture held this year at the Royal Geographical Society in London on Friday, 2nd December.
tfp-al_5“Thoroughly entertaining and deeply moving” is how one audience member described the event. She was referring to the poet Lemn Sissay sharing his painful story of abandonment, and who had stated simply “I refuse not to laugh in my own story – even if the joke is on me”.  Lemn told of how he was fostered at a very young age to a couple in Lancashire who treated him as their own until he became a defiant teenager at which point they sent him back to local authority care, with all contact cut. The only way to create meaning in his life after such a brutal separation was through poetry.


In our 6th Annual Lecture, Lemn revealed how when his anger started destroying him forgiveness became his life-line and in the end was all he had to help him let go of the pain. “When I was able to forgive my foster parents, a whole window of memories opened up for me” he explained to a packed auditorium before explaining that despite meeting with his birth mother and reconnected with his foster parents there had been no real reconciliation with either.


The event was skilfully chaired by writer and campaigner, Melissa Benn, who then introduced the other two speakers. Mathew Shurka had come all the way from New York to share his story about forgiving his father for making him undergo conversion therapy when he was 16-years-old. The agonising five year ordeal left him alienated, angry and eventually not speaking to his father. Only after Mathew eventually was able to transform anger into understanding, did he reach out to his father again. In this simple gesture of forgiveness, Mathew explained “I got my father back.”

tfp-al_4Rachel Kelly’s story took a different turn. Focusing on her two serious bouts of depression she described how self-compassion and self-forgiveness were at the heart of her recovery. As with Lemn, poetry has been her inspiration, providing her with words when she couldn’t find her own.

While the theme of the lecture was broad, all three speakers considered carefully their understanding of forgiveness, agreeing it had the power to enlarge the future while laying the past to rest. As Lemn said in his concluding remarks, “forgiveness allows me to say – after everything I’ve been through – this is not just about me!”



Festival of Ideas – UK Education: Is it fair and fit for purpose?

Lecture 7:00 PM Tue, 21 Jun 2016
Venue St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle

What sort of education do we want for our children? Do we have an effective education system? Does it give all our children a fair start in life? Or does it reinforce privilege? How can we offer equality of opportunity? These are just some of the questions our distinguished speakers will address in this opening debate of the Festival of Ideas.

Patrick Derham has been Head Master of Westminster School since September 2014. He co-edited Liberating Learning: Widening Participation with Michael Worton (2010) and Cultural Olympians with John Taylor (2013) and is the editor of the forthcoming Loyal Dissent (2016).

Melissa Benn, educated at Holland Park School and the London School of Economics, is a full time writer and journalist. She is an outspoken campaigner for high quality comprehensive education and has written extensively on education matters.


Michael Rosen’s Writers and Teachers’ Conference 2nd July

9.30-4pm at Goldsmiths,University of London, UK

Top writers and teachers are coming together to work out how to teach writing effectively in schools; join them!

Professor Michael Rosen – one of the UK’s most popular writers for children – and the Goldsmiths, University of London Department of Educational Studies are bringing teachers together with some of the best writers in their fields for a free conference on Saturday 2 July.

Michael and other Goldsmiths tutors have invited news journalists, feature writers, columnists, historians, creative writers and writer-teachers to help teachers develop their approaches to teaching writing in all subject areas.

The conference has some of the leading practitioners in their fields. There is the historian Keith Flett, science and news writer for the Times Tom Whipple, literary journalist Fiona Wilson, feature writer Melissa Benn, prize-winning novelist Ardu Vakil and Deputy Editor of the New Statesman, Helen Lewis.



Tuesday February 2nd, House of Commons 6.30-7.30pm.

‘Fair School Admissions: Are Lotteries the Answer?’

Discussion of school admissions put on by the Young Fabians with Melissa Benn ( chair of Comprehensive Future), Nic Dakin MP and Jonathan Simons of Policy Exchange. Details here

Saturday February 6th 1.30pm Lancaster University

As part of the Festival of Questions, Melissa Benn chairs a discussion on ‘Inequality: Are We Really ‘In It’ Together,’ with David Kynaston, Lynsey Hanley and Shiv Malik.



Tuesday January 19th 2016  saw the launch of ‘The Truth About Our Schools: Exposing the myths, exploring the evidence’ at Goldsmiths College, London. You can read about the launch event here and read the text of Melissa Benn’s lecture on the book here

Below the four founder members of the Local Schools Network – Melissa Benn, Fiona Millar, Henry Stewart and Francis Gilbert – in the Q and A session after the lecture.

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Daunt Books in Chelsea was packed on the evening of November 25th, for a discussion between Melissa Benn and Katherine Angel on the writings of Vivien Gornick.

On the 1st of December 2015 The Maya Centre was proud to host a special showing followed by an illustrious panel discussion of Daughters of de Beauvoir, a documentary film looking at the influence the French writer Simone de Beauvoir ‘s work and unconventional lifestyle have had on women throughout the world.

Her life story, with all its conflicting emotion and experience, is told in parallel with the stories of the women appearing in the film, all of whom cite Simone de Beauvoir as a major force in their lives, in the year that marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of her best-known book, The Second Sex.


Melissa Benn, author, campaigner and long standing Patron of the Maya Centre led a sparkling discussion of the film, the ideas, and the lasting impact of de Beauvoir’s writing and life with the film maker, Imogen Sutton, the Professor and Founder-Director of the Social Science Research Unit at the Institute of Education Ann Oakley, who had been interviewed in the film, one of our new Patrons, best-selling author Jill Dawson, and distinguished author Dame Margaret Drabble.

Much-thumbed copies of de Beauvoir’s works were produced by panel members, who shared their experiences of the impact of this ground-breaking writer on their own lives and work. Simone de Beauvoir broke taboos, in the conventional middle class Paris of the 1950s writing about sex and menstruation, living openly with her lover Jean-Paul Sartre, and later talking openly about her illegal abortion. She was brilliant, articulate and honest in her writing about women’s position in society and her own life in a series of autobiographical writings which still resonate now.

Panel members ranged over the mother-daughter relationship, French culture and icons, the controversy of the relationship between de Beauvoir and Sartre and whether, despite her deep feminist thinking even she did not find a relationship of true equality. Her writing about ageing and death sparked much discussion as well, though acknowledging that it can be hard to face the realities about which she writes so unflinchingly.


Some events from 2015:

House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

Melissa Benn will chair the Caroline Benn Memorial Lecture to be delivered this year by Professor Susan Robertson of Bristol University.

The lecture will be at 6pm at the House of Commons on Tuesday November 10th.

It is a free event but please book your place by emailing socialisteducation@virginmedia.com.

More Details

12th November 6pm – 7:45pm
Performance Space, Manchester Central Library
St Peter’s Square, Manchester M2 5PD

Melissa will be taking part in a debate on ‘Is education failing our economy?’ in the Performance Space in Manchester Central Library.

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18th November 7:30pm – 10:30pm
The Salusbury Rooms
103 Salusbury Road, London NW6 6RG

Refugee Crisis: Salusbury World Response & ‘Friends’ Launch

To share Salusbury World’s work with refugee children and families within the context of the current crisis. Speakers include Melissa Benn and Dr Basel Chamali. Refreshments provided.

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21st November 11am – 3:30pm
Parker Morris Hall, Abbey Community Centre
34 Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BU

Comprehensive Future Conference – Selection – the growing threat.

Many speakers including Melissa Benn, Fiona Millar, Caroline Lucas MP, Jonathon Simons (Policy Exchange), Becky Allen Education Datalab, headteachers and parents. An opportunity to discuss the campaign’s next steps.

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25th November 7pm
Daunt Books
158 – 164 Fulham Road, London SW10 9PR

Melissa Benn, Katherine Angel and Lauren Elkin will take part in an evening of readings from, and conversation about, Vivien Gornick.

26th November 6:30pm
Lecture Theatre A, University Place
University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL

Melissa Benn will be in conversation with film maker Amir Amirani at a special showing of his celebrated film We Are Many.

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