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St Peter's 13-18

11 June 2020

Just a few weeks ago, I spoke about how history moves not necessarily in a gradual and incremental way but more through paradigm shifts where large-scale structures and ways of thinking move in a more seismic fashion.

Exactly such a process has been taking place since the horrific death of George Floyd in America. Those terrible events have set in motion a sense of injustice, anger and protest that society needs to change and re-examine some of its fundamental principles and workings.

Understandably, questions have been asked about the role of education in enabling people to engage with issues of prejudice and gain a clear understanding not just what this means in historical terms or for other people but what it means for each of to us to be an engaged citizen in a fair, just and equal society.

In recent days we have received communication from several Old Peterites and some current pupils asking that we re-examine our teaching on racism, colonialism and inequality.

I am glad that they have taken the time to get in contact and we are taking the opportunity to set up meetings with them on Zoom, the first of which happened on Wednesday, to hear directly from them and through the light of their experience where we can develop and improve in this area.

Not that long ago, in another assembly I talked about Alcuin and how the school today can take pride in continuing to be innovative and adaptable in our ways of teaching and learning. One of the most important things in education is to be an on-going learner and never feel that you have reached the end point where all is finished and set in stone. I genuinely look forward to seeing where these discussions will lead and know that we are all committed to being a learning community.

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, officially retired from his post on Sunday after 15 years in post. One of his many roles has been to be as Visitor of our school and the new Archbishop, Stephen Cottrell, will take on this role when he takes up office in the summer. During his time, Sentamu has taken a close and personal interest in St Peter’s and was most recently here to conduct a confirmation service. It has been a joy and privilege for me to get to know him during my time in York and I am glad of the opportunity to publicly thank him for his friendship and support. John Sentamu was born in Uganda in 1949 and before studying at Cambridge and being ordained priest he worked as an advocate in the Supreme Court in Uganda where we spoke out against injustice perpetrated by the President Idi Amin following which he was imprisoned and beaten up before leaving for Britain. Amongst his many passions and causes has been racism and discrimination and so it seems appropriate to finish this assembly with his words. “We each have a responsibility to foster better community relations and improve our sense of what it means to be a good neighbour. There is only one – race the human race.”

Stay safe and go well.