This is the Headteacher's Blog which was first featured in issue 17 of The Burfordian, published on Friday, 30 June 2023.
June is Pride Month and a time to celebrate LGBTQ+ communities in the UK and all around the world. Pride Month has evolved from its foundations in 1960s New York and specifically the Stonewall Riots of 1969. A great deal has happened in the interim, but it is important to note that it is only 20 years since Section 28 was repealed in the UK. This was a law that prohibited the promotion of homosexuality in the UK. Though society becomes more integrated daily, we can never do enough to promote understanding of each other. We can never do enough to squash those forces that, through creating fear, undermine access to opportunities for all.
The word “Pride” in its broadest sense does not always have the best associations. Indeed, if you search for quotes online the difficulty in “Pride” as a piece of language is highlighted by writers such as Ruskin:
“In general pride is at the bottom of all great mistakes.” (John Ruskin)
Jane Austen famously warned of the pitfalls of pride and the possibility of prejudice in the exploration of the stubbornness of the two main characters of her book, Pride and Prejudice. Mr Darcy and Miss Bennet allow pride and prejudice to get in the way of their relationship for most of the tale before finding happiness when eventually they recognise they had created barriers by holding on to their pride. The book demonstrates particularly well that the tendency to a quick judgement borne from ignorance creates barriers and limits moments for cooperation and fruitful associations.
Yet I come back to the importance of Pride as essential for squashing the forces that undermine growth. The Pride Movement is about an individual recognising and being confident in their own identity and standing up, where appropriate, to prejudice. It is about questioning those who allow their own pride to fuel a reluctance to address their own ignorance. The challenge to overcome for a school is creating an environment where everyone is given the space to open their hearts and minds without fear or embarrassment. A useful word that is becoming more common to help overcome this challenge is allyship. Allyship refers to being an ally, it gives someone who is not a member of a marginalised group the language to support and take action to help others in that group. Allyship is crucial for inclusion and equality, allowing those, for example, who are not gay to stand by those who are and, further, to call out those who show prejudice.
“You don´t have to be gay to be a supporter of Pride – you just have to be a human.” (Daniel Radcliffe)
In an assembly this week to Year 9 I talked about allyship and the importance of pride but also the pitfalls of stubbornly ignoring the views and sensitivities of others. I was proud of the students and the way they conducted themselves. As young people grow there are inevitably errors of judgment. I have confidence that students at Burford will call out those errors of judgement and support learning about each other to provide an equitable education for all.