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This is the Headteacher's Blog which was first featured in issue 13 of The Burfordian, published on Friday 24th May 2024.

Burford School Mr Albrighton Headteacher

As students and staff take a break for Half Term in the middle of the season of national exams it seems a good time to reflect again on the ambitions we have for those coming into, within and leaving Burford School.  Recently an avid reader of this blog challenged me on my intended meaning when using the word ‘decent’. It is a word I often use when describing students at Burford, particularly when speaking with prospective parents.

As with many words, ‘decent’ has come to be ambiguous in its meaning as it can be interpreted in many ways when used in different contexts. It is another example of the challenge to learning English, a language where words distort in connotation when tone, volume, inflection, situation or even accent vary.

When referring to quality, in the mouths of some ‘decent’ can merely be satisfactory whilst to others it can refer to the pinnacle of performance. It can be used in the context of clothing to refer to something suitable or appropriate – with ‘appropriate’ itself often open to interpretation in the eyes of different generations.

‘Decent’ when used to describe a person, typically alludes to some morally sound status or indeed to a degree of conformity about a certain value set. In this regard, it is possible to query my use of ‘decent’ as a way of narrowing what is acceptable according to an arbitrary position. However, to an extent, that is exactly where a school does have a role to play. We have the highest expectations of students to conform to our set of values – Respect Participate and Reach. All three values work together in terms of providing a sense of a moral compass, to equip students to think about a situation: Respect oneself and others, join in, participate and listen, and reach to be the best version of yourself whilst reaching out to others. To some, admittedly not all, this conformity to such guiding principles points toward what might be called ‘decency’.

Ironically it is precisely ‘decency’ and conformity to core values that enables a range of views, some of which can be uncomfortable, to be considered safely and with grace. The acknowledgement of which in turn negates and deflects behaviours that are not acceptable.

With all this in mind it brings me great pleasure when I hear of the resounding praise passed about our students for their conduct and behaviour. In the last week alone I have received celebratory comments for the decency of our students at Cricket matches and on the Battlefields Trip to Belgium. So, whilst grades matter, I am proud to promote an education which fosters above all else decent young people.