As we move towards a Royal wedding there will undoubtedly be a proliferation of red, white and blue and union flags fluttering amidst that quintessential Britishness surrounding such an occasion. Hopefully this may be underpinned by a warm sense of bonhomie celebrating the Royal nuptials. Amidst the usual Brexiteering we have been shocked by the revelations of the Windrush scandal showing UK bureaucratic failings with potentially prejudiced overtones; within this context I have been questioning the importance and value of ‘community’. I had the privilege of attending the Commonwealth Voices final last month listening to our students Saoirse and Oliver present their poems for a brighter, fairer future for all. This uplifting event showcased young voices whose hearts and minds were open, embracing inclusivity, respect and tolerance. Poignantly, this event coincided with the anniversary of the death of Stephen Lawrence with a compelling and powerful BBC documentary recounting the tragedy and aftermath which changed the course of race relations, policing and indeed legal history in Britain.
I was surprised that 25 years had passed since Stephen Lawrence was murdered and that none of my students at school were even born when this tragic event took place, and yet the ramifications of his murder are still felt today. Another recent BBC documentary on Panorama also resonated as it depicted a divided Britain or more specifically, a divided Blackburn. Following the Casey Review in 2016 it showed a community divided along racial and religious grounds; it made for uncomfortable viewing. But when I think about this, I reflect upon the Peace Charter generated by Blackburn student collaboration last year and those young voices who spoke so powerfully; I did not, and do not, see a community divided - I see hope, tolerance, respect and harmony. It is in our young people that we must look to the future: they are open-hearted, far more likely to be unprejudiced or show preconceptions such as the institutionalised racism within the Met, identified in the Macpherson Report 1999 report after the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.
We often talk proudly about our Westholme community. However, being part of a close knit community does not prevent openness to others, sharing our values and ideas or embracing other groups with different ideas. As I watched the documentary I felt some despair at the intolerance that some people show one another.… And yet, as I listened to the six finalists at Commonwealth Voices, boys and girls raising the profile and importance of respect, acceptance and harmony within our society, I was buoyed both emotionally and spiritually. Similarly conducting interviews for next year’s School Officers this week I have been impressed and heartened by the core values shown by the Sixth Formers speaking about the Westholme ethos. I felt confident that the future is in the hands of today's youth. What a privilege indeed it is to be part of that future and to share the hopes and dreams of young people in our wonderful school….. And what a gift education can be to give and to receive.
Lynne M Horner
11th May 2018