Minerva Learning Trust
7th December 2020

Building a stronger and more respectful school community

Ben Lacey

Building a stronger and more respectful school community

Martin Luther King once said that the ultimate measure of a person is ‘not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy’. I think it is fair to say that 2020 has served up more than its fair share of challenge and controversy for most of us, but particularly those at the margins of society and who were already living with limited resources. In addition to Covid, we have been considering how we strengthen our resolve and response in the face of another of society’s diseases – discrimination, and in particular racism.

Following some challenging events at the end of last half term, we have been engaging more deeply with our student, staff and wider school community in how we tackle discrimination when it manifests itself – be that in school, in our community or online. (You can read more about how The Sheffield Star reported the events of the end of last half term here.) It was not an easy time in many ways, but I’ve found growth rarely comes through times of comfort! Since then we’ve been in dialogue with our student council, other student representatives, staff and a number of parents and carers about how we make our school an even more respectful, safe and responsible place to be, particularly for minority and marginalised groups. I have met with students to write an Anti-Discrimination Statement, which is now in a consultation stage with a number of parents, carers, governors, staff and members of our Trust. This restates what discrimination is and articulates our commitment to tackle discrimination through education, effective responses and appropriate sanctions. One of our deputy heads, Mrs Vaughan, has met with students and key teachers and Subject Leads to review our curriculum to look for opportunities to make it more diverse and representative, and to add new elements (such as a new Diversity and Anti-Racism unit in Core RE). This will build on what is already a robust and rich curriculum (and you can read a bit more about in Mrs Tasker’s October blog about our curriculum and Black History Month here). We have listened to students who wanted additional methods of reporting discrimination and unsafe behaviour in school by creating a new reporting system through email, which we launched during Anti-Bullying Week last month. We have made clear our unchanging, fundamental belief that a fairer school (and society) comes about through dialogue, cooperation and respect. Change at school should never come about through aggression, insults and threats, and we will continue to work to ensure that school feels safe for everyone, even those with views that are different to our own, or views that need to be challenged.

We are communicating these changes and other work to students through assemblies and Group Chats. The conversations have not always been easy, but staff and students are talking about having learnt a lot through this last term and it has certainly brought about opportunities for a more honest and open dialogue. I know that I have learnt a great deal and we are still engaging in opportunities to learn more.

We feel very proud of our students who have managed this most challenging of years with resilience, grace and courage. Many of them have stepped up to the mark over the past few weeks and met with staff to express where they feel we could improve, and have partnered with us to deliver that change. I know that we have all made mistakes at times, both students and staff. But in this time of challenge and controversy, I know that we are headed in the right direction. And, to borrow the words of another favourite quotation, ‘A calm sea does not make a skilful sailor’. I am trusting that through this most difficult of years, all of us will become even more skilled at navigating our way the choppy waters of society, as we build an even stronger and more respectful High Storrs’ community.

Ben Lacey, Assistant Headteacher