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With great power comes great responsibility

Published on 01/10/19

‘With great power comes great responsibility’ says Uncle Ben to his nephew Peter Parker. And while that is a phrase worth restating to politicians both in the House of Commons and across the world, it made me wonder about the opposite. With little power, do we have little responsibility?

Perhaps Greta Thunberg disproves this best, showing we have more power than we ever imagined we might. Many would say the young protesters in Hong Kong have displayed the power of an idea, a consensus, too. However only history will tell whether their accumulated power, gathered through numbers and persistence, is able to be moderated in a way that delivers a safe and progressive outcome.

Having sat down with every member of Year 11 in the past few weeks, I have asked them about the power they have to fulfil their potential. ‘I have started my revision already’, some answer. ‘I think I will start in about a week’s time’, others reply. ‘I would revise, but I have to do this or that first’, others will state. ‘I do go to clinics’, some reply, and  ‘I think I should go’, others state, and probably most effectively the occasional pupil will report that they have developed a clear programme for their revision and will ask if they need help but feel things are in hand.

Our pupils have been supported by their parental love, by a striving desire to work hard and use their income to support their children’s learning - what better gift could there be?  The power of a good education, in turn, brings a responsibility to make the very most of this gift. I should say that I have been rather impressed by the responsibility my Year 11 pupils take, and their willingness to stick up for others and for what is right. They do so in their involvement in all areas of school life, in their citizenship, and they do so in the way they learn. The responsibility they recognise they have in supporting their own learning and also the power they have to benefit the learning of others.

It is frustrating to see once again in the news criticism of the unfairness of an independent education. We take a decision to support our children to give them the best education we can, and there is an implied criticism that that is wrong because others do not have the means to do the same. What the criticism does reasonably remind us, however, is that we have a responsibility by delivering an excellent education to our pupils, to ensure our pupils give back to the community and the world at large. Whether through our community partnership programme, through financially supporting bursaries for those who would thrive here if they could afford to be here, or simply through our pupils being the best they can, and hopefully becoming the world shapers of tomorrow. We all have a responsibility for the world we live in now and that our children and grandchildren will occupy after us. We all have the power - in dialogue, cooperation or simply in leading by example – and the responsibility sits with us all.

William Brierly