Statement from the Headmaster

The global reaction to the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police has been unprecedented. Nobody can or should respond with indifference to what the world witnessed on the 25 May.

Thanks to the power of digital communication, there is now a greater groundswell of opinion than ever before on the need for radical social change. The response to Floyd’s death has transcended national boundaries and obliged us all to reflect on the racial injustice which stubbornly persists in the western world. As the head of an independent school which is located less than a mile from where Stephen Lawrence was murdered, I acknowledge the need for change.

If schools are going to make a difference, there are several key points that their leaders must bear in mind:

  1. Unconscious bias permeates all western institutions, including schools, and we should not underestimate the scale or complexity of the problem.
  2. Grandstanding statements about zero tolerance are of relatively little value in themselves. That is not to say that we should not make such statements from time to time, but to acknowledge that the statement itself, tout court, is not a substitute for effective action.
  3. Most overt racism in schools happens in playgrounds when teachers may not be in close proximity so the ethos and culture of the school must be sufficiently strong to prevail when immediate policing is not possible.
  4. No school or institution can address issues of race in a vacuum. The attitudes of our pupils are to a high degree determined by what they see and hear at home and on social media.

Through this statement, I wish to make it clear to pupils, ex-pupils, parents and friends of the school that we will be taking the opportunity of the current upsurge in global protest to review the ethos of Colfe’s within the context of the sort of school that we want to be. I will be discussing next steps with senior leaders and governors between now and the end of this term.

Richard Russell

June 2020



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