Looking Back, Moving Forward

This is a week of landmarks, events and anniversaries. Yesterday was World Teachers Day and I would like to start this Master’s Voice by passing on my immense thanks to all of the teachers not only here at Wellington but at schools up and down the country for making the first five weeks of term such a success in less than straightforward circumstances.

Thursday 8 October is the 80th anniversary of the death of Bobby Longden. Longden was appointed Master of Wellington in 1937 and was the only casualty at the College during the Second World War when he was killed in 1940 by a German bomb as he left the Master’s Lodge. We have so much to mark and commemorate over the next month, including November’s Remembrance season which will inevitably be delivered in a manner slightly different to previous years, but please spare a moment to mark the death of Wellington’s 6th Master as you go about your business on Thursday.

And Saturday 10 October is World Mental Health Day. Activities abound this week, including our annual mental health and staying safe survey, and on Saturday we will be asking every Wellingtonian to wear yellow as part of Young Minds’ ‘Hello Yellow’ initiative to raise awareness. One of the unforeseen but positive outcomes of 2020 (and there have not been too many) is how increasingly willing both adults and young people are about to talk through the struggles and joys, the challenges and issues experienced over the past six months.

This week is also the annual HMC Conference – online of course – and one of the themes is around how schools should continue to respond to the events of the summer in the wake of George Floyd’s death; indeed, as I type, I am about to attend a virtual session entitled ‘The Decolonisation Debate’ which, I hope, will feed into the curriculum review which we have already started at the College under the leadership of Ms Gutulan.

All these events sit, of course, at the start of Black History Month which was launched in yesterday’s Assembly by Mr Lewsley our Head of History. Debates and lectures, reading lists and podcasts, film screenings and TV series all of which explore important narratives which have, for too long, not been told, will characterise our approach.

Likewise, our Fireside Lecture series this term continues to tackle issues around race, culture, diversity and inclusion. Science journalist Angela Saini spoke at the beginning of term on the topic of ‘How Biologically Real is Race?’, the poet Rakaya Esime Fetuga delivered a brilliant session on documenting culture through poetry, and we are looking forward to welcoming Professor David Olusoga in November to discuss his book ‘Black and British: A Forgotten History’. Last night behavioural scientist, Dr Pragya Agarwal, author of ‘Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias’ was in conversation with Mrs Granville-Chapman on this vitally important issue.

In yesterday’s assembly, I also gave Wellingtonians an update on our audit regarding the nomenclature and iconography at the College. I do not have the space in this missive to do justice to this vital work, but look forward to giving parents an overview in next week’s Master’s Voice.

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