The brutal murders of some 17 people last week in Paris has caused much outrage over the globe, yet another incident in a global war between those that consent to living in pluralist liberal societies and those that wage jihad against what they see as decadent non-islamic values. World leaders descended upon Paris on Sunday, to walk in solidarity with President Holland and as company for 1.5 million citizens who marched through Paris in protest against extremism, themselves shadowed by millions more across the rest of France and throughout the world. As a sense of balance developed through the week, it was not just the 8 Charlie Hebdo journalists whose lives were mourned, but also the muslim, Ahmed Merabet, shot at point blank range by one of the 2 hooded gunmen, one of three Policeman shot that day, the 4 jewish shoppers who also died in a Parisian supermarket the same day. Whatever faith, nationality, occupation – if you stood in the way, your life was forfeit.
The atrocity has quickly informed teaching and learning at Claires Court, discussions about the morality of war and peace, both in assemblies and lessons. Making sense of tragedy may not be possible, but translating information and questions into learning experiences is what assists us in building an understanding in our children of the moral choices that both individuals and communities need to make to ensure we have a civil society. And because we already have a complex curriculum, ‘Je suis Charlie’ will compete with other sources such as ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ and ‘The Christmas Truce’, in which our older children are asked to identify with those involved and then contrast those feelings against the other opinions of the day. You can follow here a link to a Senior Boys assembly given this morning, in which Year 10 Historians juxtaposed Sainsbury’s use of the 1914 Trench Football event ( a symbol of something deemed good a century after the event) against the Establishment’s suppression at the time, because German warships had shelled the North Sea coastal towns of Whitby, Hartlepool and Scarborough, giving rise to 137 people killed and 592 injured, mostly civilians.
Independent School Regulations changed this January 2015, placing the promotion of fundamental British Values at the front of all school curricular provision in our schools. Whilst it is interesting to note that at Claires Court we are very clear about the values that underpin what we do, I’m not quite clear that FBVs (by which they are now known) are actually ‘frightfully British’, if you get my drift. Free peoples across the world value democracy, the sovereignty of their parliaments, the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. This last November, we faced the choice of the Scottish people to secede from the United Kingdom – that would have been a very un-British act, and actually what price UKIP and the Scottish National Party holding the balance of power come the 8th May 2015?
What has been interesting as a Reporting Inspector for ISI is to recognise in my training last week in the new regulations that our job is actually to look out for practices that might seek to undermine FBVS, not actually worry about its overpromotion at all. In short we are not to overly concern ourselves with what people say, but make sure that a broad and balanced view is taken on people’s civil and individual liberties. And because the laws of our land apply to all people, whatever their age, stage, abilities, gender or sexuality, we must look to ensure those are properly addressed. I quote from the Regs: “Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and religion or belief is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. However, teachers and schools must ensure their conduct recognises their responsibilities under those duties to others. Teachers are expected to respect the rights of others and to respect those with different beliefs; expressing a view in an unprofessional way that involved singling out pupils on grounds of sexuality, or presenting extreme views without balance on a topic such as marriage for same sex couples, would be considered inappropriate”.
As Academic Principal it’s my role to stand by the will of parliament and its people to ensure that we as a school do everything in our power to ensure we educate within an environment that both respects others, their rights and beliefs, whilst ensuring that we actually propose views quite strongly on matters of right and wrong and give our pupils the opportunity to take a long hard look at that. My job is not to look for a mechanistic approach to this, to ensure that all the ticks match all the boxes, but to show that a balance is achieved over time. During my headship of 33 years, I have seen a very good deal of British terrorism arising from within, as well as more recent horrors inflicted upon us by those of similar criminal intent from other countries.
One of the better messages arising from last week’s terrorism event was that spoken by President Netanyahu of Israel in Paris on Sunday, when he praised Lassana Bathily, the Muslim shop assistant in the Kosher supermarket, originally from Mali, in west Africa, for risking his own life to save so many in the Supermarket by hiding them in the basement freezer and then leading them to safety. Not only have the wider community also joined in the praise, but an international appeal supported by many across Europe made to President Holland to grant Mr Bathily French citizenship. For indeed, it was not as a citizen of France he had acted, but because of common humanity. And it is for humanity as a whole, pretty much visible within my school it must be said, all faiths and none, ability, colour, gender, race, sexuality and age certainly most varied that I am prepared to identify myself and my school with. Apart, we are divided and separated by our differences; together, we can really be our ‘best selves’- hence the ‘I am Claires Court’ title of this blog.