Following the school’s interim statement issued on 6 June 2020, please find a further update which reflects updated developments and discussions.
Over the weekend a good number of Paulines and Old Paulines have either contacted the school directly or signed an open letter in response to the death of George Floyd and the response from the Black Lives Matter movement, and specifically how we can play a positive role going forward.
The correspondence has been courteous and constructive, and most of the requests have focused upon diversifying the curriculum. We recognise, though, that the issues go deeper than that. Schools like St Paul’s are institutions of influence, and with influence comes the responsibility to confront any internal institutional prejudice, but also to take seriously our duties towards broader society. Challenging racism must be part of that, and must include significant and ongoing self-reflection on our part.
In the next week, following discussions begun last week at a Governors’ meeting, we will convene a Working Group to consider these issues further, and, more directly, and to scope additional areas and proposals for action during the course of the next academic year. The Group will report to the school Executive and the Governing Body by the end of this term. It will be chaired by the High Master, and will include mainly staff and pupils, with input from our alumni. The new High Master will continue the work of the Group to ensure that change is enduring. Sally Anne Huang led HMC’s (Head Master’s Conference) Diversity Working Group, and has this issue as a major priority in her year as Chair of HMC which will begin in September, so she occupies an optimum position to ensure that we are leading on and adopting good practice. We will communicate the composition of the group, how to consult with its members, and update on its progress through the website and general communications.
In terms of the curriculum, by necessity we largely follow the National Curriculum, and so meaningful reform will have to emanate from the government. We do, however, have some flexibility to teach beyond the set syllabi, and already all Fourth Form pupils study US Civil Rights, and a Moral Philosophy course that focuses on contemporary issues of race, religion, gender, sexuality and environment. Earlier this year we celebrated Black History Month and diversified our English texts at Fourth Form level to include more BAME and LGBTQ voices. Our discussions this week have been characterised by emails from staff underlining the most recent initiatives in their subject areas, such as BAME Society’s virtual classroom where free-flowing open dialogue is taking place alongside suggestions for reading and documentaries, and our library blog recommending books educating on racial oppression and anti-racism. There is much more we can do, and a willingness to do so.
So this is not a matter that we have suddenly begun to address, although the appalling events in the US and the surge of global outrage are a powerful reminder of the need for action. We encourage all Paulines to attend existing school societies, such as BAME or Spectrum, which are widely advertised within school. Spectrum has been running for two years, and seeks to celebrate diversity of identity and offers a platform for conversation on feminist, BAME and LGBTQ issues. It reflects the school’s focus on high quality pastoral care, kindness, tolerance, and social justice. These values are evident through the launch last year of an ambitious bursary campaign to increase diversity and address inequality in our intake. Our volunteering programme and partnership work has been greatly expanded, and we are working together with St Paul’s Girls’ School in many of these areas: our Fourth forms hold a shared ‘Diversity Day’, last year hearing from a range of speakers from the LGBTQ community: in future, this day will celebrate diversity in all its forms, including race and ethnicity. In December our Upper Eighth Forms held a Joint Conference with the central theme of confronting sub-conscious racial bias. All of this underlines that we want our pupils to be aware of inequality; to understand its causes and effects; and to be committed to doing something about it.
None of this is enough. No school is free of racist behaviour (certainly of the unconscious variety), so there are no grounds for complacency.
Interim Statement from St Paul’s School – 6 June 2020
Intense reflection and discussion has been going on within our school community this week in reaction to the death of George Floyd and the response from the Black Lives Matter movement, and specifically how we can play a positive role going forward.
As a school we are not traditionally overly vocal on social media channels. However we realise we have a duty to ensure that by not speaking out we are not sending a message that racism is tolerated, or that ignorance and prejudice are ever acceptable.
We are categorical that we will not tolerate racism and we acknowledge the role that schools can play in dismantling systemic racism. We have made progress, but we also know that there is much still to do. We commit today to listen to our community and to work and consult to drive change and to equip our pupils better with the knowledge they need to understand and address complex social issues and to be aware of and combat racism. We welcome the views of members of our community and if you wish to be involved, please contact us by emailing HMPA@stpaulsschool.org.uk
We will update this statement to reflect discussion currently taking place next week.