Writer & Campaigner

Most Recent Post

Under the hammer and sickle: David Aaronovitch’s Party Animals

 January 24, 2016

Anyone brought up in a left-wing family gets used to a particular joshing, voyeuristic line of questioning (“I expect you spent your whole childhood on political marches”, “Did you call each other comrade?”). This is not just an everyday nosiness about an unconventional upbringing; at its worst, it can feel like a discomfiting, albeit disguised form of spite. The question is, in other words: what’s it like to have been raised in a family that had the idiocy or courage (take your pick) to believe it might be able to change the world?

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tThe Truth About Our SchoolsThe Truth About Our Schools 
Published 25th November 2015

“A superb, crucial, blistering expose of all the myths about our education system that are all too often used to attack it..”           Owen Jones  

If you want to know more about the content of, and background to, the book please look at this piece on the Local School Network or read the text of my launch lecture. Janet Downs and I were also chosen as November 2015 Authors of the Month by Routledge our publishers. 

For details of other events, please look here.

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.

Other Recent Posts

The slow revolution that makes learning fun

 December 14, 2015

It’s hard to feel like a covert revolutionary when hovering around a reception class on a chilly Thursday morning. But within minutes of arriving at St Silas’ Church of England Primary School in Blackburn, it is clear that I have stepped into a bold educational experiment that daringly flies in the face of much current accepted thinking. All around, four- and five-year-olds are playing energetically with water, building things or writing stories. So far, so normal,

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Vivian Gornick: one of the most significant writers you have probably never heard of

 December 14, 2015

Vivian Gornick is one of the most significant writers you have probably never heard of. A biographer, journalist and memoirist, she is among the supreme essayists of the past 50 years, a writer who bridges the worlds of Joan Didion and Meghan Daum, Susan Sontag and Leslie Jamison, without ever having achieved the cultural glamour or worldly success of any of these figures. In a recent interview in the Paris Review, Gornick, now aged 80, was candid about her marginal status for a large part of her writing life and how often she longed to be part of “the uptown parties,

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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 on One of Us.

‘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

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

Independent on Sunday, on One of Us.

‘Insightful, deeply affecting.’“

Time Out on One of Us. 

Never has it been more urgent to publicise the truth about what works and doesn’t work in our education system. ..This hugely important book should be required reading for each new Education Secretary.”

Caroline Lucas, MP, on The Truth About Our Schools