GCSE students are to study the writings of Southend anti-poverty campaigner, cookery writer and blogger Jack Monroe.

The former Echo reporter’s blog posts on social deprivation, Hunger Hurts and I Can’t Even Open My Own Front Door have been put on the syllabus for 14 and 15-year-olds across the country.

Ms Monroe started writing about the hardship she suffered while jobless and struggling to make ends meet as she brought up her young son.

Online postings in her blog, a Girl Called Jack, pulled not punches about austerity and the day-to-day trials of keeping them alive – accompanied by imaginative, but inexpensive recipes.

The recipes went on to become so popular they were published in a book, and she still writes a regular food column for the Echo.

Book deals and numerous media appearances have helped Ms Monroe to find financial security, but she still campaigns on behalf of people stuck in poverty and debt. Announcing her writing’s inclusion on the exam syllabus on Facebook, she said: “Just got a letter to say two of my pieces of writing are going to be taught for GCSE English.

“Don’t really know how to react to this one, except I suspect it’s a very good thing that 14 and 15-year-olds up and down the country will have to study harrowing, first-hand accounts of poverty in Britain and therefore may be a generation that doesn’t try to deny its existence.

“The books, writing and poetry I learned for GCSE, are still with me – Blackberrying by Plath, Of Mice And Men, Lord of the Flies, Shakespeare, etc. I’m a bit blown away, to be honest.

Adding it to the list of ‘things I could not have predicted would ever happen to me’.”


In I Can’t Even Open My Own Front Door Ms Monroe recalls giving evidence to an all-party Parliamentary group inquiry on hunger and food bank use. It opens this way: “MY head in my hands, choking out words, tears rushing down hot, humiliated cheeks, I raised my head to look at the array of varying expressions looking back from the other side of the room; a Labour MP, two Conservative peers and a Conservative MP looked back,amixture of horror and sympathy as I publicly crashed and burned.

“Fear and humiliation and self-loathing leaping on me like a set of hyenas, as I sobbed: ‘I can’t even answer my telephone, any more. If it’s an unknown number, if it rings early in the morning, or I don’t know who it is.

“‘I can’t even open my own front door. It’s not the same front door as the one I sat with my back to, morning and afternoon, cowering as bailiffs battered on the other side of it. It’s not the same phone number. It’s not the same front door. I’m not in debt.

There are no more final demands, no more red capital letters, no more threats.

“But…I can’t even open my own front door.”