The death of George Floyd has sparked protests across the world, as well as public debate and private conversations. Quite rightly, this conversation becomes personal; thinking and reflecting on our own experiences of events, activities and the institutions in which we are, or have been, a part.
We are aware that over the past couple of days, as part of the Black Lives Matter conversation, there have been some discussions taking place online that relate to racist behaviour by former pupils. As a school that prides itself on its tolerance and international diversity, we have read what has been posted with shock and sadness. We are, of course, extremely sorry that anyone may have been hurt by the intolerant actions or words of a member of our community – wherever and whenever it occurred. We do feel it is important, for clarity, to state that the reported incident where a headteacher allegedly dismissed the individual’s concerns did not take place at Oakham School.
Sadly, racism is a systemic societal problem. We recognise this and, as a school, work incredibly hard to play our role in breaking down this systemic problem. We pro-actively encourage, develop and ingrain tolerance across our school community – which includes children from nearly 40 different nationalities. Our pastoral programmes, as well as our PSHE lessons, focus on inclusion, diversity and racism. We also have very clear measures and procedures in place for promptly dealing with behaviour that is intolerant – be it regarding colour, race, sex, or gender.
However, we can only tackle the issues of intolerant behaviour when we are made aware of them. Much work has, and continues, to take place to encourage our current pupils to tell staff when they experience or encounter intolerance. For example, in this current time of Distance Learning, when our community is not together in school, we had already put even more measures in place in order to encourage pupils to disclose any concerns they may have – about any pastoral matters – should they arise.
Can we be better at our role of breaking down the systemic problem of racism and intolerance? Absolutely. We have, and will always, strive to make our community a happy and safe one for all of our pupils whilst they are school. As well as encouraging the children in our care to have the right values to make a positive difference to the wider community in which they live, and the society they move into when they leave us.
The current online conversations have, however, ignited our resolve to not be complacent and try even harder. This began today with a frank and open discussion with our pupils during their tutor time. This will continue, over the coming weeks ahead with a full review of our current practices – taking into account the views of current and former students and staff, along with anyone in the wider community who has already or who in the future, contacts us directly. Today we encouraged our pupils to always strive to be better and to be confident to act when they see things that could be improved. We, as a School, will do the same.
Henry Price, Headmaster