Grammar Schools – A Brighter Future For All?

By Haroun Mahmud

The debate over grammar schools, and more generally experiences in the education system, are inextricably linked to personal experience and conducive debate and policy making can only be embarked upon with a more dispassionate approach.

Recent plans unveiled by the Prime Minister Theresa May that existing schools will soon be able to become grammar schools has ignited another episode in a long-standing debate. Like discussions about social status in class-ridden Britain, conversations about education – or at least certain aspects of it – prove to be an equally touchy business. Commentators, wherever they stand on the issue or for that matter the political spectrum, use anecdotes from their own lives, their children, their neighbours or anyone to seek justification for their viewpoint.


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BREXIT: Young People Speak on Britain Leaving the EU

The #MarchforEurope on Saturday showed that many still have hope despite being devastated by the EU referendum result. We spoke to a few young people, a demographic often branded as disengaged, to hear their thoughts.

‘Love not Fear’: Over 30,000 attend ‘March for Europe’ rally in London

Pills and Policies join tens of thousands in central London today at ‘March for Europe’ rally against the Brexit results. Amongst the crowd of hopeful and unified demonstrators, the feeling of great uncertainty for the future  is echoed not only by those present at the march, but by people across the UK.


Over 30,000 people demonstrated in central London today at the #MarchforEurope. They marched against the results from the EU referendum last week which saw 52% of the UK voting for Brexit, despite the capital overwhelmingly voting to remain.

Spreading messages of hope and solidarity, the day marked a feeling of unity and empowerment for many of the attendees, particularly for the young people in the crowd. With 75% of young people voting to remain, the Brexit results showed a generational divide and left many feeling uncertain of the future.

One young voter felt that his ‘future was unfairly robbed’ and is worried about what impact this result will have on his future employment opportunities within the EU. Another student studying linguistics echoed this sentiment, and felt that her ‘dreams of working at Brussels as an interpreter was crushed overnight’. For many, the benefits of an EU membership afforded to generations before them will be missed, whilst thousands of 16-17 year old were excluded from having a say in the referendum.

Since the Brexit results, racist hate crimes have increased by five folds, leaving minority groups feeling vulnerable to racists and xenophobic attacks. This issue was addressed in the march, as thousands echoed their condemnation and zero tolerance to all forms of discrimination. ‘United we stand, divided we fall’ read several banners, signifying the sentiment of togetherness and solidarity across the capital.

Needless to say, this EU referendum result marks a great time of uncertainty and young people need to be more empowered and vocal about their vision for the future now more than ever before.

Penicillin: A Modern Antibiotic or a Drug of the Past?

louisBy Louis Jamart

Louis is a Human Scientist, part of the Pills and Policies team, and keen rower.


Two pills. Four times a day. Ten days straight.

Imagine the pain caused by changes in air pressure as a plane takes-off or lands. Or the same suffering caused by your first experience scuba-diving when you forget to blow into your blocked nose to relieve the pressure from your ears as you descend. Imagine that pain. Now imagine it persisting for 24 hours non-stop for over a week. On Monday two weeks ago I was diagnosed with Streptococcal Pharyngitis, or, to put it more bluntly as my friends prefer: “a simple case of bacterial tonsillitis” – a few days of Penicillin V and it’s solved! Right?

As I took my 8 pills per day, over the course of the week my symptoms only worsened. In my hopeless attempt to self-diagnose and convince myself I was not “dying”, I dared to take the risk of venturing online. To my surprise, I discovered case after case on internet chat groups of individuals complaining of the same inefficacity of the penicillin antibiotic – the global text-book medicine prescribed for tonsillitis. I decided to look into penicillin to understand the effect of the drug on my body, and to my horror, found myself confronted with a terrible truth.

Antibiotic resistance is one of the largest problems we, as a human race, are faced with within the coming half-century  yet nobody is talking about it! Bacteria are not limited by borders like humans, and routine operations today could become deadly within the next twenty years. So how does bacterial resistance work? What effect does the overuse of antibiotics have? What is the future looking like for antibiotics today? Could my tonsillitis have actually killed me? Intrigued? Read-on.

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AIDS – A Crisis for Us All: Lessons from the History of Gonorrhoea and Syphilis

By Anthony O’Driscoll

Anthony is a postgraduate Law student, with a background in Human Sciences. He writes on Policy, Bioethics, Medicine, Public Health and society. 


Can history inform our views and subsequently our approach to problems brought forward by the AIDS Epidemic?

This question poses no certain answer, not least because there is no clear consensus on the construction of disease history. Societal responses to disease are guided by values routed in cultural, social and moral institutional precepts. This is perhaps most evident in AIDS, where our understanding has been warped by structures of identity, oppression, subversion and fear. Far from figurative, the fabrication of our perceptions have terribly important consequences – not only for the way we frame, approach and conceptualise disease policy – but also for the way in which social actors build a risk narrative in relation to their own proximity to morbid outcomes. Venereal disease is often unique in that the victims are seen as the cause and the embodiment of the disease. This builds a narrative of – ‘them and us’ – where there is a tendency to disengage from the pertinent problems at hand. In searching for groups to blame, do we pervert policy with ineffective social and cultural frames that hinder progression? In response let us consider three ages of venereal disease.

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HIV Stigma is Institutional; Simply Raising Awareness Won’t Help

As part of World AIDS Day, Pills and Policies attended a panel discussion on HIV stigma at the University of Oxford. This was organised by Sexpression, Oxford LGBTQ Society, Terrence Higgins Trust and Oxford University Student Union (OUSU).


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From left to right, the experts: Ant Babajee, Dr Catherine Dodds, Marija Pantelic, Professor Sarah Rowland-Jones, and Tom Gardiner 


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Oxford University Medics Discuss the Junior Doctors Contract

Medicine students at University of Oxford share their thoughts on the proposed junior doctors contract, saying how it will affect patient safety as well as their wellbeing and future decisions.

Trans Inquiry: 5 Ways the NHS is Failing Trans People

Last week, Pills and Policies were at the first ever meeting held by the Women and Equalities Committee. Although the meeting was too short to initiate a deeper discussion, there was poor representation of the affected parties, and it is not certain if the government will act on the evidence, these were the key issues identified within the healthcare system that relate to trans people:


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Pills and Policies at NHS Expo 2015: The Need for Health Innovation

It’s my first time traveling to Manchester, and despite the 5-hour coach ride on a stuffy Megabus, I’m looking forward to it. This isn’t just because my whole existence revolves around London and I desperately need an escape, or because ‘The North’ is somewhat mysterious to me, but because I have managed to secure free tickets to the biggest NHS event of the year: the annual Health and Innovation Expo.

On arrival, I find my way to Manchester Central, just opposite the grand Milibank Hotel. Aqsa (my Mancunian HumSci buddy) is waiting for me, ready to explore the conference. Having recently completed an internship at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, she informs me that the city is at the forefront of health technologies in the UK, and it is no coincidence that this is where the expo is. I am excited.

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Vulnerable young people in custody need better mental health support, including safer and more inclusive places for treatment

The life experiences of young offenders in custody are undeniably diverse. This includes diversity in socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. Various risk factors that may increase the likelihood of deviant behaviours and involvement in crime overlap those similar to mental health – ranging from living in poverty, child abuse, family breakdown to history of drug abuse and truancy. This however, does not fully explain why 95% of imprisoned young offenders have mental health disorders. There is more that can be done within the system to prevent such a statistic.

In this particular post, Pills and Policies explores the mental health concerns and needs of young offenders from ethnic minority backgrounds in custody.

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