Principal Louise North used her Chapel address to pupils and staff on Tuesday to reinforce the importance of choosing language carefully and calling out others when they perhaps use words which are offensive or inconsiderate. Here’s her address in full:

By Principal Louise North

It’s been an interesting three weeks back in school hasn’t it. In some ways it has felt like the start of a new term, in others, it has been exhausting as we have got used to being back in the buildings once again. And with that return to the buildings has come our opportunity to be together, to talk, to reconnect in person.  And whilst that has been very positive in many ways, other things have come to my attention that I want to share with you. Things for you to think about over Easter perhaps.

I believe that as a school we should strive to be a place where there is no discrimination of any kind against anyone, for any reason. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I believe in tolerance, kindness, respect and open heartedness. I also believe in challenging others who are unkind, who are not tolerant and who show disrespect.

What about you?

  • If someone is unkind, what do you do?
  • If you hear a sexist remark, how do you react?
  • If you hear a joke at someone’s expense, do you laugh along?
  • If someone is racist in their view, do you challenge them?

Moreover, have you ever been the person to make that unkind comment, that sexist remark, that joke at someone’s expense or that racist view?

Often, those comments will be wrapped up in disguise as banter. Banter is a word that I truly despise. People use banter to hide behind, to defend their comments – it’s just a joke…what’s your problem…lighten up….where’s your sense of humour.

So, if you use the word slag or slut to describe a girl, don’t.

If you use the word try hard to describe someone who achieves well in class, don’t.

If you say that something is “so gay” because you think it is stupid, don’t.

And if you hear such things, call them out. Do not stand by and let it happen because that makes you a part of the problem. This school is better than that. You are better than that. Don’t ever think that it is ok for someone to put you down with unkind words. Don’t ever think that it is ok for someone to use sexist or racist language towards you. It isn’t. It is never ok.

The truth is that we need to stamp out the casual unkind comment – the banter – before it becomes something more engrained, before it becomes a habit, before it becomes the norm, before it becomes discrimination. I know from recent conversations that many of you feel strongly about this and that you want to bring about positive change.

I want us all to think again about the language that we use with each other, about the impact of our words on each other. I want us to think again about how we treat other people in our community. Reflect on the language that we use, the assumptions that we make, the questions that we ask, the banter we hide behind.

I know this isn’t the most upbeat of Easter messages, but equally it is food for thought. We all care very much about this school and the values it holds dear. We need to work hard to uphold them and as we head into a well-deserved three-week break, I hope that you will think about what I have said.

Thank you.

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