June – Pride Month – is a celebration, a protest, a revelation for some and a poignant moment of reflection for others. It originates from the spontaneous, violent rebellion which took place in June 1969 in Lower Manhattan, NYC. Over the years, it has provoked feelings ranging from rage, defiance, fear and uncertainty through to joy, gratitude, freedom and clarity of thought. In many cities around the world, it is represented by a march of determination which has often dissolved emotion, enabling the gift of community support to encourage us to live and love as equals. For some individuals marginalised by societal prejudice, June represents an expression of freedom, an acknowledgement of a daily battle fought by those who are negatively defined by discriminatory views. Significantly, 2022 commemorates fifty years since the first Pride parade in the UK.
As a school we value compassion, upholding basic human rights with kindness and empowering young people to be themselves, whoever they may be. Our students do not require permission to step outside, to sit comfortably with opposing concepts, nor are they forced to recognise similarities. Our ethos questions the authority of conventions and long-standing traditions that may painfully exclude them from some sectors of society. Through the voice of our student-led Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, the promotion of dignity, equal rights and self-affirmation replaces outdated views and calls out any unconscious biases we may hold as a community.
Our work stands on the shoulders of all those before us who strove for equity. Capturing a school’s strategic journey towards the celebration of difference inspires us all to explore the rich human diversity in which our young children grow. As varied and diverse as our school community is, the experience of our life can be different for each of us. Our recent Junior School Diversity Day shone a light on the vast cultural heritage shared amongst our families. It was a joyous, purposeful opportunity to share our roots and celebrate the value that this offers in our classrooms. It embraced an important message: anyone who walks into our school, no matter your identity, is warmly welcomed.
Such pride, such joy has been witnessed this week through so many of our students’ activities and achievements. Deep pleasure was experienced by our Junior School Sports and Charity Captains as they visited a local animal rescue centre to donate the funds raised from our annual sponsored Fun Run – witnessing first-hand the impact which their action has on our wider community. Our Year 6 students all participated in a wonderful evening’s Music Recital, which they devised and compèred entirely themselves – a fabulous showcase of collaborative learning, confident music-making and the wide-ranging genre which they enjoy. A Year 2 form assembly creatively retold the story of Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize for campaigning for peace through a powerful connection with nature. The children then proudly escorted their families around Abbey Gardens, explaining how their well-informed planting choices were improving the environment, as well as our lunchtime menu! Children in Little Knellies Nursery and Reception competed for their Houses in their inaugural Sports Day event, to the delight of their parents and teachers. In Year 1, children delighted us with ‘There’s a Sunflower in my Supper!’ – an upbeat musical production which they staged with such a joyous sense of expressive good humour. And our Year 5 woodland warriors returned, elated by the outdoor exploration of a residential trip spent under canvas, in the knowledge that bushcraft survival could be relied upon, should global fuel supply require it…
All these memories are steeped in our students leading in their learning, with inquiry at its heart; each one has a powerful impact on defining individual identities, through self-expression and meaningful connection with the wider world. Every experience they have helps them become more wholly their own free selves. The freedom to be us, whoever we are, free from prejudice and constraint, is at the heart of Pride month. Every step we take in that direction in society and education is a source of pride and joy for every one of us.
Nisha Kaura, Head of The Abbey Junior School