University lecturers’ union to start further six days of strike action

By Juniper Rose

University lecturers are to resume their strike action from tomorrow (WEDSMarch15) to run every day until Wednesday next week.

The dates for the continued strike action by lecturers’ union the UCU were announced on February 28 while talks continued over pay, working conditions and other elements.

Standing together: UCU strikers and students supporting them at Leeds University

Various strike days had been held in November and February but were then paused while talks took place, although action short of a strike continued.

UCU General Secretary Jo Grady said the reason for these further strike dates was to “focus the employers mind as talks come to a conclusion.”

Talks and negotiations are set to come to a close at the end of this week and the start of next week, but Ms Grady said employers need to have “on them the maximum amount of pressure” in order to push for a better outcome for staff following negotiations. 

A researcher at De Montfort University (DMU) in Leicester, who did not want to be named, said, until the workload on staff is addressed, they felt no real progress could be made in the dispute.

They said a workload survey provided to DMU by the UCU branch provided “shocking results” from teaching staff.

“The survey shows shocking results in particular about health damages to staff due to the current workload system,” they said, giving the example of block teaching as a method of teaching which is “very problematic” in relation to workloads.

They added: “I hope that by seeing their teachers on strike, the students can reflect about their teacher’s determination to fight for a better university.

“I am sure no students likes to see their teachers stressed, tired, and unable to spend five extra minuets to talk about an assessment, their worries, or to explore career options.”

The union says many lecturers are in support of the strikes as the workload, pay, working conditions and casualisation of contracts are having a massively negative impact on staff as well as the quality of education they are able to offer to their students. There has also been an overwhelming amount of support for the strikes from university students. 

Matt Reay, a Politics and International Relations student from the University of Leicester, said: “I feel the progress was somewhat getting better despite the fact that unions have felt the need to go for more strikes.”

He added that the union’s actions display that “clearly the demands need to be met to ensure a greater education for those who pay for it and those who are providing it.”

He feels the strikes have had a “somewhat interesting effect on students,” with most seeming to support the strikes, but others wanting a full and fair education because they are paying money for it.

Matt believes the inadequate pay being given to university staff is something that universities need to work on to “ensure their lecturers are fairly paid for their work.” 

Alex Burt, a Politics and Sociology student from the University of Leicester, said they do not feel they are in a place to comment on the progress made before the announcement of upcoming strikes.

They added: “However, I do hope they are closer to a resolution so that the disruption and instability can end.

“The strikes will have an obvious impact on studies, but so does unsupported and overworked staff.”

They also complained that the support offered to students by universities was poor and it was unclear what students are actually being offered.

“In a marketised system, students become cash cows while staff become a drain on the profit margin rather than being treated as the lifeblood of the university that they are,” they said. 

University students criticise school senior leadership teams and academy trusts following recent comments by Labour minister

By Sophie Mundy and Juniper Rose

woman reading a book to the children
Photo by Yan Krukau on

A university student with autism has criticised school senior leadership teams and academy trusts in support of Shadow Secretary of State for Education Bridget Phillipson’s recent comment that “Children with SEND locked out of education are being consigned to a bleak future”

Ms Phillipson’s statement came after figures showed there has been an increase of 29 per cent in the number of SEND children who have been excluded from mainstream school or are waiting for a place at a specialist school. 

This increase of 29 per cent is a large jump from that which was recorded back in 2020, when about 2,400 children who had an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan in place had either been excluded from their school or were on a waiting list. This year the number has risen to about 3,000 children. 

Just under 1.3 million children in the British school system have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in 2021/22, an increase of 77,000 from 2021, which is a continuing trend from 2016. About 4 per cent of students have education, health and care plans. 

Alex Burt, a politics and sociology student at the University of Leicester, was diagnosed with autism at the age of seven, and was initially seen as dyspraxic.

They said:  “I was  already being accommodated at home and no-one really thought it was necessary to make any major accommodations for me at school.

“Beyond ableist bullying from peers and social exclusion, I’ve always struggled to get any accommodations for my autism in school beyond extra time for my 11+.”

These ableist attitudes are something that Grace Liu, DMU Journalism graduate and author, has also felt, experiencing people making her feel that “[she is] more likely to be stereotyped, pitied and patronised.”

Grace and Alex share experiences of staff being inexperienced and under-resourced in areas of SEND, Grace saying she had experienced being “patronised and fussed over” by support staff.

Alex said: “It always felt like I was fighting schools and teachers for things that weren’t a huge difference for them but were vital for me.”

Alex was supportive of Ms Phillipson’s comments. In their experience, senior leadership teams in schools and academy trusts, which were products of previous governments, meant schools “don’t even try. Either you have mild Special Educational Needs and they ignore you or they’re more severe and they demonise and expel you.

“SEN children are treated as nothing more than a drain on a school’s balance sheet, limited time, and resources while SEN departments are left chronically underfunded.” 

Grace, however, was more critical of Ms Phillipson’s comments. She pointed out the “systemic ableism in society” leads to “implicit and explicit discrimination” that people with autism face, with difficulties accessing accommodation and support.

She added: “It feels a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy – people make education, work and even social environments inaccessible to autistic people, then judge us and pity us when we fall behind our peers.”

According to research by Jonathan Vincent and Helen Rowe, there is some support for students with autism in higher education institutes, but this is often in short supply, or not advertised enough. 

Their research suggests that transition to university support and ‘specialist tutoring’ is offered by less than half of the 120 institutes asked. 

They found it is also apparent that post-1992 universities have fewer provisions for autism, despite potentially larger numbers of students with autism, which in turn makes it seem that these institutions are less supportive of students with special educational needs.

In another report, published by the National Autistic Society, in 2021, 74 per cent of parents felt that their autistic child’s school did not fully meet their needs, which is a level that has doubled since 2017. Also, 44 per cent of parents felt that their autistic child’s needs were not being met in general. 

This story of unmet needs is nothing new. Another autistic and dyslexic student, Taylor, said they have faced discrimination within the education system as a result of their disabilities. 

Systems that were put in place to aid them getting to school were unmet and non-functioning, such as a taxi system, which often presented a myriad of problems – turning up at the wrong times and to the wrong places, and sometimes not turning up at all. This problem was further exacerbated after Taylor’s 16th birthday as the council changed its criteria. 

However, when they were able to get to school, Taylor praised their mainstream school which was well-provisioned in terms of disability support. This seems to be a rarity, with many schools who are short-staffed in terms of support staff and a shortage of new support staff.

Many thanks to Alex Burt, Taylor, and Grace Liu for their contributions of their experiences to this article. You can find more of Grace’s work at

Kenyan Supreme Court now in favour of LGBTQ groups despite hypocrisy of contradicting previous ruling

By Haris Khawaja and Michal Okonski

The Kenyan Supreme Court has ruled that it regrets its 2013 ruling to stop the formation of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC).

Photo by Tristan B. on Unsplash

The LGBTQ community in Kenya has been fighting for the creation of a government group focusing on tackling these oppressive laws, but the formation was blocked in 2013.

Kenya’s laws state that homosexuality or knowledge of another person’s homosexual acts is illegal, with punishment of up to 14 years of imprisonment. These laws were created by British colonialists before the country’s independence in 1963.

The decision was again blocked in 2019 by the High Court, stating that ‘it is against the order of nature’.

Kenya President William Ruto criticised the Supreme Court’s ruling, saying: “We shall not allow women to marry women and men to marry men. That is not possible in our country.” 

The president also expressed how important Christianity is in the country, stating that he asks “all religious leaders in the country to stand firm” against these “dirty teachings.”

Outcries in Kenya have been frequent since the killing of fashion designer and model Edwin Chiloba, who was found stuffed in a box with socks in his mouth in January. 

A homophobic zeitgeist has been prevalent in Kenya since the killing. More than half of the LGBTQ community have been assaulted for their sexuality in recent years, according to The Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya.

The supreme court’s stance is uncommon, as many religious countries in Africa (such as neighbouring Uganda) are passing bills to limit homosexuality and the expression of sexuality. 

Nyashadzashe Nguwo, Academic Executive at DSU, wanted to remind students of how important inclusivity is around campus.

He said: “Diversity and being yourself is important to me and the reason I ran for student leadership.”

Nyashadzashe comes from Zimbabwe, where a similar anti-LGBT rhetoric is common. He uses his position here at DMU to promote representation of everyone.

Children’s TV star George Webster has brought out a new disability-focused book for children 

By Caitlin Kirkley and Charlie Dowey

George Webster, 22, author of ‘This is me’. (Photo credit: BBC)

‘This is me’ entered the world of children’s literature this World Book Day, a heartwarming picture book for children which explores a range of diverse characters and identities. 

This is charismatic television presenter George Webster’s debut novel which takes children on a journey of discovery as they come to learn about what makes each character so unique and interesting.

The fun of the story is also accompanied by colourful illustrations from the talented Tim Budgen.

Writer Webster, who was targeted by bullies during school, hopes this book will create a new approach in terms of thinking about learning disabilities. 

George, 22, an ambassador of the Mencap organisation, said: “People with Down’s syndrome have emotions and feelings like every other person. They [don’t] ‘suffer’ from the condition. I have an amazing life.” 

The picture book is the latest work by the BAFTA-winning CBeebies star, a project inspired by a poem that he shared on the CBeebies channel and eventually went viral.

When writing the book, Webster wanted to spread the message of acceptance and inclusivity as well as busting the myths around growing up with disabilities.

Many children have shared their love of the book on World Book Day 2023 by dressing up as some of the characters.  

Publisher Scholastic chose ‘This is me’ as their book of the month for the age 3-4 category for March 2023 and described it as a “genuine and heartfelt” story which “encourages children to celebrate each other’s differences.” 

Leeds-born George has always loved performing arts and joined the team of CBeebies presenters in 2021.

He is very passionate about championing the inclusion and representation of the disabled community across the media. 

Find more information at:

Woman undergoing Endometriosis diagnosis gives pain relief tips and advice

By Molly Lee and Jess Bourne

The lack of education about Endometriosis can leave women in fear when dealing with the condition, despite the many methods of pain relief, according to sufferer Maddie Forster who is undergoing a diagnosis.

Endometriosis is a chronic pain condition where tissue grows outside of the uterus, affecting the female reproductive system.

Endometriosis UK, a non-profit organisation, states that: “1 in 10 women and those assigned female of birth of reproductive age in the UK suffer from endometriosis.”

According to The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, a diagnosis of Endometriosis can take an average of 7.5 years.

There are many different types of medications and pain reliefs that are prescribed to help women dealing with the painful periods, whilst waiting for a diagnosis.

Maddie Forster started having symptoms when she was 14 years old and has since found different methods of pain relief.

She said: “Heat bags and hot water bottles are amazing. As well as a lot of Häagen-Dazs. Deep Heat and legal CBD cream are lifesavers.”

Doctors also offer the contraceptive pill as a method of managing the hormonal symptoms of Endometriosis.

After years of living with Endometriosis, Maddie said: “If you are going through the pain, you are going to be fine one day. 

“Pain will be over and better once you are diagnosed. 

“Enduring the pain is a learning curve but you will get through it.”

If you are struggling with symptoms of Endometriosis, you can visit the Endometriosis UK website here for advice, tips and help: .

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month where events will be taking place – more information can be found on the website above.