Writer & Campaigner


tThe Truth About Our Schools

The Truth About Our Schools
Published 25th November 2015

Routledge Education is delighted to announce that Melissa Benn and Janet Downs, authors of The Truth About Our Schools, are their November 2015 Authors of the Month. Their much anticipated new book is published by Routledge this month.

Who She Is

Melissa Benn is a writer and campaigner. Her journalism has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Independent, The Independent on Sunday, The Times, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Record, Marxism Today, the London Review of Books, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Public Finance and the New Statesman. She is currently a regular contributor to The Guardian and New Statesman.

Melissa has written seven books including two novels: Public Lives and One of Us . Her non-fiction works include Madonna and Child: Towards a New Politics of Motherhood ; School Wars: The Battle for Britain’s Education; and What Should We Tell Our Daughters?: The Pleasures and Pressures of Growing Up Female.

Melissa is a regular speaker and broadcaster. She has written and presented several Radio Four programmes and has been a guest on the Today programme, Woman’s Hour, Saturday Live, A Good Read and the Sky Book Show.  She has spoken at the Hay, Edinburgh, Bath and Cheltenham literary festivals and numerous seminars and public meetings on education, feminism and general equality issues. 

Melissa is currently Chair of Comprehensive Future, a cross-party group campaigning for an end to selective education. She is a vice president of the Socialist Education Association, a founder member of the Local Schools Network and a member of the Oxford Women in the Humanities Advisory Board.

Recent Posts

Grammar school plan makes Kent a national battleground

 September 8, 2015

The education secretary’s ruling on a new ‘satellite’ school now seems to be as much about politics as what’s best for all children.

 Amanda Manuel, parent campaigner, at a potential site for the controversial grammar school annexe. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian
Sevenoaks in Kent, a quiet, affluent commuter town, is the most unlikely site for a teeming political drama. But as the county – and the country – waits for Nicky Morgan to make a final decision on whether to open the first “satellite” grammar school in 50 years,

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What would Keir Hardie Say?

 September 1, 2015

If a week is a long time in politics, a century can seem surprisingly short. With uncanny timing, the centenary of the death of Keir Hardie, Labour’s first leader and arguably its most towering figure, falls at the end of this month, on the very weekend that Labour delegates will gather in Brighton for this year’s annual conference, the first under the party’s new leader. Hardie has long been claimed by all wings of the party.

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Harry’s Last Stand by Harry Leslie Smith and Austerity Bites by Mary O’Hara – reviews

 June 18, 2015

Big Society? More like Battered Society. Melissa Benn on two books that expose the ‘war on the weakest’ in Cameron’s Britain

In a manner suggestive of Ken Loach’s magisterial 2013 film The Spirit of ’45, Smith sees the postwar era as Britain’s finest moment destroyed a half-century or more later by neo­liberal economics and unrestrained finance capital.
Right now, some inventive literary festival programmer is probably trying to set up a staged discussion between Harry Leslie Smith and Mary O’Hara.

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What They Say

‘Melissa Benn… spoke brilliantly … about the challenges women are facing today … Benn is a first-rate public speaker.’

The Daily Telegraph

‘Benn grapples eloquently with character, self, confidence, anger, the unquantifiable but elemental traits that makes us human…’

Financial Times on What Should We Tell Our Daughters?

‘One novel that stands out for me is Melissa Benn’s ‘One of Us,’ just out in England from Chatto & Windus. It’s an insider look at politics and power, but it’s a rich and heart-breaking novel in its own right. I can’t get it out of my mind.’

Sara Paretsky

‘This is a tremendous book … [a] passionate polemic about the most important policy divide of the day. The book’s publication marks out her out as one of Britain’s foremost advocates of comprehensive education.’

Anthony Seldon, in the Observer, on School Wars

‘The final chapters are so gripping you won’t be able to put it down.’


‘A rare bird indeed. Benn evokes the acrid whiff of power, and its drift into the “web of family”, with chilling precision. Benn strikingly shows us the flesh, blood – and fear.’

The Independent

‘Extraordinary………an emotional and political tour de force.’

Independent on Sunday, on One of Us

‘Iraq has just been invaded and Anna Adams’ misfit brother Jack has done something shocking, whilst her eldest brother Matt, special adviser to the government, has the unpleasant task of trying to bury it. Part political drama, part family saga, Benn, herself a member of a political dynasty, blends the two elements together expertly, while her precisely drawn characters suck you in. When Anna’s relationship begins slowly to disintegrate, you will find it almost impossible not to ache at the situation she finds herself in.’

Psychologies on One of Us

‘Insightful, deeply affecting.’

Time Out on One of Us