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  • Nurturing Excellence
  • Headmaster: Gus Lock MA (Oxon)
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Black Lives Matter: Update on Habs' response to Open Letter 

The tragic death of George Floyd and the powerful response from across the world has moved us all and brought to the fore significant injustices that remain in our society. In recent weeks, current and former students from independent schools across the UK have highlighted the persistence of racism within our schools.

At Habs, we have been in contact with a number of our Black students and alumni regarding their experiences. We have sought, wherever possible, to respond and engage personally, to listen and to understand. They have spoken to us with great honesty and openness and have challenged many of our perceptions and assumptions. Criticism is often uncomfortable, but it provides an opportunity to learn and improve. Our pupils and alumni have put their trust in us to listen and act, and we are committed to doing just that. 

The School would like to believe that Habs is a community where no discrimination exists, however, it is clear that this has not always been the experience of every pupil here. We are both upset and deeply sorry that this is the case. It is not acceptable for any racism to exist here. It is not enough to not be racist; the School must be proactive in being anti-racist. The testimony of pupils is that more needs to be done to eradicate casual racism, to diversify the curriculum and to ensure a more diverse representation among teachers and school leaders. We fully accept this and we embrace the opportunity to do better. 

As a community, the School takes a strong stand against racism and all other forms of bullying and discrimination. Habs is a remarkably diverse community, in which equality is a core value and where every child must feel welcomed and nurtured. There is much within the School that confirms this, such as the wide range of faith assemblies each Thursday, our annual Diversity Week, the African-Caribbean Society and Black History Month, or the clear behaviour policies and practices which take a firm line against any form of racism or discrimination. It is our role both to nurture every pupil in our care and to prepare them to contribute positively to the world, with a strong sense of morality and decency.

In recent weeks, we have taken feedback from alumni, pupils, parents and staff on ways in which we can do more. We have addressed all students, staff and parents to acknowledge and highlight the importance of this issue. We have held pupil-led assemblies and discussions, focusing on the experiences of Black students at Habs, Black Lives Matter and the importance of diversity and inclusivity.

In the coming weeks, we will continue to reach out and listen to our community; listening must be a process, not an event. We are engaging the support and advice of experts in diversity and inclusion and will build a working party focused on the specific issues of diversity and inclusion to engage pupils, staff, parents, governors and alumni and to define meaningful solutions to long-term problems.

All staff will undertake unconscious bias training this September and we are exploring how best to embed this within the PSHCEE curriculum for the pupils.

We have started reviewing our ten-year strategy, in order to ensure that we embed positive responses to these issues. For example, our curriculum can better reflect the diversity of our pupil body and we have begun the process of reviewing and addressing our curriculum to address this.

We will review our pastoral policies and procedures to evaluate why historic issues have not been sufficiently identified, and how our policies and systems can be improved to ensure that all boys feel able to speak out, that any issues are robustly addressed and that parents are supported in their roles. 

We will also review our practices and materials relating to the recruitment of staff and governors, to ensure broader selection pools and increase exposure to suitably qualified BAME candidates.

Habs has always been proud of its diversity and inclusivity. Change will not come overnight, however, we are committed to listening and learning and to taking meaningful action, both now and over the long term, to ensure we truly are the community that we wish to be.

The School would like to thank our Old Haberdashers, current pupils, parents and staff for their help, advice and guidance over the past month, particularly to those in our Habs community who have engaged in positive discussions and have helped shape current and future plans to improve.