Statement from the Headmistress

The recent killing of George Floyd in the US and the worldwide protest movement that it has generated have brought into sharp focus the fact that racism, discrimination, bias and inequality are commonplace throughout all sections of society and its institutional structures and organisations. It is essential that we recognise and confront this reality and do all that we can at St Helen’s to help bring about change.

St Helen’s is an enormously diverse community of pupils and is renowned and celebrated for this characteristic. Central to our school ethos is the warmth, kindness and respect that we have for one another and we have always sought to appreciate, encourage and value the richness and dynamism which a diversity of experiences, backgrounds, orientations, ethnicities and religious and cultural identities bring to our school. However, we are a community made up of individuals and we do not always live up to the highest expectations which we have of ourselves. I am aware of social media posts in which former pupils have described incidents which are profoundly at odds with our school ethos and I am grateful that these have been brought to my attention.

I am also grateful to current pupils and alumnae who have written to me asking St Helen’s to reaffirm our commitment to establishing a culture that is entirely anti-racist and to carefully review our curriculum, our systems and processes in light of current events. We are lucky to have alumnae who continue to be so engaged in our school community and willing to share their perspectives.

In response to this, the Executive Team is developing a plan to work in partnership with our students to make necessary progress in this area and to bring about the kind of school community which we are all striving to see established. Through pupil and staff surveys, our School Councils, our Prefect Team, Tutor meetings, PSHCE sessions and other means, we will gather perspectives on experiences of racism within our school community, discuss options for development, and work together to move forward positively.

Guided by the outcomes of our consultations with pupils and staff, we will establish a Research and Action Group who will distil and refine any changes we might make to our curriculum, our co- curricular programme, our staff and governor recruitment and training and pupil and staff well-being.

One might argue that education is the context in which the seeds of fundamental change and progress can take root most effectively, and it is therefore essential that this profound responsibility is understood and respected by all of us. This is an important opportunity to scrutinise all that we do and make changes where they are needed. We are so looking forward to the time when we can return to school and embark upon this important project together to ensure that the principles of tolerance, fairness and equality are at the centre of everything we are doing.

We are very grateful to our whole school community for their support as we complete this crucial work.

Mrs Alice Lucas