All Schools have an obligation (both regulatory and moral) to promote ‘British Values’. I confess that I am a little uneasy about that as a title, but I whole-heartedly support the promotion of (for which read ‘talking about; teaching about; celebrating; modelling; endorsing; making transparent; extolling the virtues of’) the positive values which underpin our society and our communities. ‘Respect for, and tolerance of, those with different faiths and beliefs, and for those without faith’ is one; ‘individual liberty’ is another; there’s also ‘the rule of law’; and the first one on the list is ‘democracy’. We address these key values through the curriculum and in many other ways (we have recently developed a policy on our Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural provision) including assemblies, morning worship, form time, PSHE, our wellbeing carousel, pupil voice and leadership opportunities, and of course our general and daily interactions and expectations. It strikes me that there has been a great deal in the media and the calendar of late which touches on the subject of democracy, and so it was that I spoke about this ‘British Value’ in HM’s Morning Worship on Monday.
‘Remember Remember the fifth of November’ was a poem at least a few lines of which were known by most of the pupils. Via a Q and A session in the Quire we were able to establish some of the history behind the poem, and to learn a bit more about Robert Catesby’s plot to overthrow James I and to blow up the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament in 1605. We also, of course, reminded ourselves about the capture of the man left behind to light the fuse, Guy Fawkes, and his particular fate. From this we went on to talk a bit about the significance of bonfires and fireworks and – crucially – to explore the significance of the Houses of Parliament. This is, we heard, the seat of democracy; where decisions about how the country is run, by the people we have chosen to run it, are made.
We talked about the importance of exercising our democratic right and how our school community gives several opportunities for this through our Pupil Voice agenda: school council, food committee, pupil librarians, the current proposal for pupil panels on staff appointments etc. Our new Mindfulness Garden is a great example of Pupil Voice in action: we commissioned a new climbing frame last year which was approved by the staff and the FECS committee; when we took it to school council it got categorically rejected! They asked instead for a quiet space and some greenery. We in fact ran a democratic exercise before half term in HM’s morning worship: the pupils were presented with (and played) three hymns from which they had to vote for the one they wanted to sing that morning (Angel Voices was the winner).
But perhaps the example of democracy that I am keenest to impress upon the pupils, and which I certainly hope they cling on to, is that of that firm Featherstone family Favourite ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. I proudly confessed to the School on Monday morning that I had spent Saturday at Elstree Studios being an audience member during the filming of the Children in Need Strictly Special. What a treat that was (all for my children, you understand)! I got to watch the Children in Need celebrity dancers (I am sworn to secrecy: I cannot let on who the four celebs were….No Matter What, it wouldn’t be fair if I Gave It All Away, because, when it comes to secrets, I find it is best When You Say Nothing At All). And I got to chat to Claudia. And I sat next to Tess throughout the whole thing. And – oh my goodness this is properly exciting – I high-fived Dr Ranj. I came straight home afterwards to exercise my democratic right and voted for the person I most wanted to win.
So there you have it: Sequined Democracy; a glittery British Value for us all to cherish.