Senior Headmaster's Blog: #BeMoreFelsted

I would like to start this week’s post by passing on my congratulations to all of our students who would normally be facing public exams at this time of year.  This would have been the first week of IB exams, and we would have been preparing for the imminent start of GCSE exams, and A Level exams as well.

Instead, faced by a series of internal assessments, the students have shown real strength of character in their response, and have coped with huge change extremely well, for the most part.  We are here to help you through the next three weeks, and please do ask if there is anything that we can do.

Image: 2020 leavers, taken in March before the first national lockdown

In reflecting on the recent talks given by Iain Mahony about his experience as a young man with addiction to drugs, we have been talking to pupils about their responsibilities to one another (and more broadly) as friends, and how important it is to stand up for others when something is going wrong.  It does take courage to stand up for what is right, especially when there seems to be peer group pressure not to say anything, and this is always something that has worried me.  Clearly, there is a point at which nearly everyone would speak up.  Whatever the bar is for doing that (damage to property, injury to yourself or friends, or someone putting themselves at great risk), nearly all of us can think of incidents that would be above that bar, where we would feel that we had to act or report.  Assuming that this is the case for most of us, what is it that makes it right to speak up?

In my view, for a community to survive and thrive, I think that the point at which we intervene has to be when someone is at risk, where behaviour is clearly unfair, or where someone is suffering as a result of some kind of behaviour.  If you are aware of the story of Chanel Miller (author of Know My Name, the story of her being sexually assaulted on the campus at Stanford University), this provides a great example: the assault on her is stopped by two passing Swedish post graduate students.  They don't know her (or him for that matter), but when they see something that they know to be so wrong, they cannot just walk past, and instead intervene and stop what is happening, getting help for Miller in the process.  This led to the hashtag #bemoreswede being adopted by students at Stanford (and more widely) to express their support for the 'friends' who were passing by, and stopped and took action.  With regard to Iain Mahony's story, his behaviour drove friends away over time, but at his lowest point, two former friends stood up for him, stepped up, and helped to start him on the road to recovery.

When I talk about 'Developing Character' and 'Making a Difference', this is such a strong example of what I am talking about.  I want our students to #bemoreswede, to be a great friend and to stand up to help others when they need that help.  It would be so good if we could encourage this sense of responsibility for helping others throughout the whole Felsted community, and perhaps, as a result, in a few years time, people will talk about #bemorefelsted as the example for the very best of character.

Have a very good week

Chris Townsend 



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