I recall as a teenager travelling to Moscow while the tanks were rolling into Vilnius to attempt to stop the breakaway of the Baltic states. The move for independence by these states, and the subsequent break-up of the Soviet Union, were in hindsight inevitable following the earlier bloodless fall of the Berlin wall. The passing of Mikhail Gorbachev has reminded us of magnitude of his actions for global history; he was a leader whose respect for humanity (relative to that his predecessors) – his respect for others – was such that life was thankfully prioritised over ideological dogma, irrespective of the consequences for the communist regime.

In a year where countries, political parties and even social media users too frequently seem to be warring, it is important to reflect on the importance of diversity, tolerance and respect for others rather than the absolutism of a we are right and you are wrong approach in creating a positive and dynamic community. Like bickering siblings, it feels like time for a break from all this noise.

Our examination results were just that breath of fresh air in contrast to the noise of world politics. The tension of TAGs and CAGs and the first results of publicly examined tests in three years could so easily have delivered a decline in results this year, as was the case nationally. And yet our pupils’ outcomes at A*/A and 9/8/7 exceeded those we had seen before. It is lovely to start a new year with the optimism of what went well, and I cannot help but conclude that the attitude of our pupils to the graft of learning this summer was made so much easier by each pupil knowing they had their whole peer group behind them, willing them on.

To have the confidence to be yourself can at times require assurance and self-respect, but as importantly it requires the respect, and tolerance, of those around you too. The smiles on the faces of our GCSE and A level pupils on results days, and their positive attitude throughout the least two years was never just for themselves, but most pertinently for those around them. Perhaps the culture of our sixth form centre is exactly the community our new prime minister could learn from!

William Brierly

Mr William Brierly