Every school, whether London day or country boarding, city academy or Surrey community, finds itself needing to examine whether it could do better.
Since COVID-19 first struck, the killing of George Floyd and more recently of Sarah Everard have challenged both society at large and schools in particular on whether we do enough to stamp out a prejudice, to safeguard our pupils against wrong and to empower our community at large to stand up for what is right.
I must confess my pride in our pupils, both boys and girls, for the seriousness with which they have discussed these matters in recent classes. While the newspapers might consider otherwise, this is not something to be solved quickly – of course unacceptable behaviour must be addressed quickly – but the broader solution is ongoing and requires a safe forum for us to sustain reflection and action.
As a white, middle aged male who was midway through GCSEs when the web was even invented, it is hard to imagine how social media has impacted the way our pupils communicate. However, the value of how we treat each other is no different and nor is the duty of every school in educating respect for others, for their safety, for the colour of their skin, for their gender, their appearance, their home background, their right to say no and their right not to be pressurised by others.
Our pastoral leaders have held initial forums with groups from each year which have generated some of the most important discussions regarding how they treat and are treated by each other in school, at social gatherings and online, even if they have been uncomfortable to hear. As a school our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is at the core of our beliefs. Our approach starts with our governors and extends to our very youngest pupils.