Seventy-five years ago, on 27 January 1945, the allies liberated the survivors of the Nazi extermination camp at Auschwitz. I’m not sure that we can begin to imagine the horrors that the allied soldiers found there, but the testimony of the survivors is something that we draw on every year during our assemblies, led as always by Mr Ridgus, during the week of Holocaust Memorial Day. However harrowing and difficult these stories, I think it is extremely important that our young people hear them and learn from the horrors of history; they are the keepers of tomorrow and every single one of them has a part to play in ensuring that such hatred is never allowed to fester and grow again.
This is why we remind students, often time and again, that the thoughtless comments in the playground, the cowardly cyber-bulling that occurs through social media, and the lack of care and attention to others as they travel around the school is something that I simply will not tolerate at Prospect School. I know that I am talking about a tiny minority who do not show common decency to their fellow students and their teachers, but the lessons of the Holocaust are that it occurred because of a failure to stand up to hatred, and a failure to call out those who allowed prejudice and intolerance to flourish. Students who cannot show compassion and goodwill to others are simply not welcome here, and although I am proud of our diverse and inclusive nature, this is one type of behaviour that will not be tolerated in my school. We enter a new period in our history as a nation today, and I hope that the values of unity and friendship that have characterised Europe since the end of the war continue in post-Brexit Britain – they most certainly will at Prospect.
Whilst not on the scale of the seriousness of coronavirus, Prospect has definitely been hit by the dreaded lurgy this week – and consequently some students have not had their usual teachers in front of them in lessons. I ask for your forbearance (and sympathy!) but I do apologise to those students who have been affected by staff absence. Wherever possible, we will ensure that students are provided with independent study or work to do, but I must advocate the benefits to all students of carrying a reading book with them at all times. The evidence of the benefits that reading for pleasure brings is clear: regular reading improves literacy, and in doing so, students’ access to the curriculum. I know that we have many ‘millionaire readers’ in school who have participated in our Accelerated Reader scheme, but for those who do not read regularly, it is a really good habit to develop – and a chance to switch off social media. Just 20 minutes a day of independent reading will bring significant benefits. I realise I must practise what I preach, so I’m currently reading Chickenhawk by Robert Mason which is a superb narrative of his experiences as a “Huey” UH-1 Iroquois helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War– maybe not everyone’s choice, but I am thoroughly enjoying the indulgence of a bit of reading on my own everyday!