We are in the process of holding a set of assemblies to cover themes of safety, discrimination and tolerance.  The slides I am using are attached here: Special assembly March 2019 We had decided to hold these assemblies before tragic events in New Zealand last week but those events made the assemblies even more relevant.

Our decision to focus on this theme arose because of trends we were seeing in society as a whole including:

  • a recent rise in knife and related related crime in the UK
  • a rise in reported racist incidents and a growth of a hostile environment towards those from other countries
  • a reported rise in issues such as; Islamophobia, Xenophobia and Antisemitism
  • targeting people in connection with gender identity and sexual orientation
  • a rise in sectarian and other violent incidents at football matches

As educators we try to help young people to understand the law so they do not inadvertently fall foul of it but also help them to recognise that some behaviours cannot be brushed off as “banter” or “fun” just because they happen in a school context.  Racism is racism, homophobia is homophobia and we need to recognise it for what it is and call it out for what it is.  It is particularly important to do so as children move to being young people and eventually adults.  During these years they can struggle not only with their own identity but also their relationships with others and we need to promote values such as tolerance, compassion, inclusion and equality.

Alongside deepening understanding of these issues we also have to help youngsters to understand changes in society and social norms.  The Equality Act 2010 set down important protections for certain groups.  Things which were once mainstream comedy are now rightly deemed unacceptable.  There is a greater awareness of issues such as child exploitation and sexual harassment as a result of high profile cases.  There are new challenges particularly around social media, globalisation and a rapidly changing and increasingly unclear political landscape.

All of this was already in our minds when we planned the assemblies but the shocking events in New Zealand and the divisive language around Brexit brings them into very sharp focus.   The main message I hope our youngsters take away from the assemblies if for us to speak up and speak up for the rights of those who are vulnerable.  To be part of a school and a community which celebrates diversity, is tolerant of others and challenges prejudice.  One which recognises the need to call out the apparently small things because if it allowed to pass then it can grow into something more serious.  I want them to understand that what some would try to excuse as “banter”, “teasing” or “fun” should more rightly be seen as a form of “hate crime”.

Last month we did a lot of work around the Holocaust and over the years we have had groups travel to Auschwitz and others to Rwanda where they learned about the genocide in that country.  As adults we need to do all we can to help our children to learn from the past and to build a better future.  We need to try to live in their world of 24/7 real time access to news, ‘fake news’ and social media and we need to help them navigate the threats and realise the benefits of that world.

During the course of the week we have been running sessions on on-line safety for all our Primary schools and our S1-S3 classes.  There were also sessions for parents and teachers.  It is essential we help youngsters to enjoy all of the benefits of being connected on-line but also recognise the many dangers.  School staff are here to help any young person or family with their concerns.  Paul Hay the consultant who runs the sessions is happy to answer any questions you may have –   http://www.pclstraining.com/