When is injustice individual, and when is it systemic? In the areas of both race and gender this debate has remained vividly alive over recent weeks. In the UK the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities released a report querying the existence of institutional racism that drew widespread protest. In the US the conviction of Derek Chauvin has brought justice of a kind to George Floyd’s family but campaigners have raised the question of how much the conviction of a man filmed in the public act of murder over nine minutes and 29 seconds represents a watershed for racial equality.

Meanwhile the issue of a toxic sexual culture – what some have gone so far as to describe as rape culture – in schools and universities has received continual attention thanks to the harrowing and courageous testimonies shared by the website Everyone’s Invited and other media sources.

As a community we continue to address the task of racial injustice and other forms of diversity injustice, acknowledging its importance and the scale of the work, and with a commitment to long-term and sustainable change. On the INSET day that began the term for staff students recorded films directly addressing teachers and explaining issues of diversity in the classroom and curriculum from their perspective. We are hugely grateful to all who took part: this kind of dialogue, this readiness to listen, the acknowledgement that we all need to learn from each other is central to the progress we need and intend to make.

The issue of a broken gender culture enabling sexual misconduct on the scale now being revealed is also gravely urgent and also requires a committed and nuanced response with learning and change at its heart. This is not an issue that lends itself to simple binaries – apart, perhaps, from the stark and evident truth that the negative cultures and behaviours these testimonies have revealed must not continue.

It is not about girls versus boys. Apart from anything else, we are developing a more sophisticated understanding of gender diversity. Moreover, the binary dynamic is reductive and simplistic. All schools must work with all young people and with each other to support their students and work actively towards positive change and a better world.

So what must we do as a school and as a community to play a positive role? The first answer, as so often, must be to listen. To listen to the voices and experiences of our students and to give room for students to listen to each other. We need to develop a shared sense of the impact of these grave issues on our community and how to provide the right support to those most starkly affected by them.

We must then work positively with other partners. Whether that is the school providing a platform for the experience of students or putting young people in direct contact to develop true learning and make positive change, we need to share our voices.

And then above all we need to do everything in our power to cherish the strength, independence and freedom of our students. A core part of our purpose is to prepare students to face a changing world on their own terms, excited by opportunity and committed to leadership. We want all our students to feel certainty in themselves, their freedom, their self-determination; and, founded on that assurance, to support with kindness and challenge, where needed, with resolve.

To borrow from George Bernard Shaw: the reasonable person adapts themselves to fit the world. Where the world is unreasonable, where the world is wrong, where the world must change, then it needs women and men prepared to be unreasonable to fight for difference. We seek to help all our students develop and maintain such purpose when the situation demands it. The current situation demands kindness, empathy, understanding and readiness to reconcile: but it demands too the passion, courage and belief to drive unyieldingly towards improvement for all.

Will le Fleming, Head