The Headteacher's Blog - The Burfordian, Issue 10 2023-2024

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The Headteacher's Blog - The Burfordian, Issue 10 2023-2024

This is the Headteacher's Blog which was first featured in issue 10 of The Burfordian, published on Friday 11 March 2024.

Burford School Mr Albrighton Headteacher

The 1st March was the United Nations day of Zero Discrimination. Each year this is a day when we are asked to respect the right of everyone to live a full and productive life. This year there is a priority around the importance of ensuring all are enabled to access the healthcare provision that can save an individual’s life. Specifically on a global scale the United Nations is seeking to put a spotlight on the support of people caught up in the AIDS pandemic. This is perhaps less real for people in the United Kingdom, where AIDS incidence is thankfully very low and the access to healthcare is open and fair (acknowledging complacency is of course a dangerous path). The idea behind this year’s date of Zero Discrimination however did prompt me to look further into the impact on health of discrimination.


There is a large amount of research in this area and there are broadly 5 lines of enquiry regarding the link between diminished health and discrimination: Access, Mental Health, Physical Health, Health Behaviours, and Physiological. Whilst not diminishing their importance, Access and Mental Health are more commonly discussed and understood – particularly in recent years and indeed in the UK, as said, our health service is open and fair. I would like here instead to draw more attention to the changes to Health Behaviours and the potential Physiological impact of discrimination.


It does not take long when you start doing research through academic channels to find support for the negative effects of discrimination on decisions about health. Consumption of alcohol, substance abuse and the tendency to reduced physical activity are attributed as a direct or indirect effect (through increased rates of depression) of long standing and insidious discrimination. Further research highlights the link between discrimination and increased risks of reduced cognitive function, heart attacks and strokes. The first two through the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and the latter through raised blood pressure.


In brief, squashing discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the obvious moral imperative, helps improve life chances in terms of physical and mental well-being but also in terms of personal achievement. The role of a school in providing an education is complex. It is never simply about the academic qualifications. The importance of providing a safe space free from discrimination can never be understated. As such when we plan the education on offer at Burford we are very deliberate about the first of our three core values Respect Participate and Reach.