Principal's Assembly 13th April 2021

Welcome back everyone. I hope that you’ve all enjoyed your Easter break, though I know that our Year 11 and Upper Sixth students will have had less chance to relax. As I’m sure their teachers will be telling them this week, the mini-tests for our second round of assessments did arrive during the holiday and my colleagues will be busy preparing them for their next chances to impress.

For many of us, the break saw a return to some kind of normality with the restrictions lifted on seeing friends and families in small groups outside. My last assembly was about the scientific achievement of rolling out a vaccine so quickly in the UK and, whilst controversies remain around the Oxford vaccine in particular, we seem to be on course for achieving the Government’s roadmap for more or less complete normality – at least within the UK - by the end of June.

That said, rates of infection in Leeds remain twice as high as our national average. Allied to concerns about how valid the negative results of the lateral flow tests are, we cannot get complacent about our hygiene and social distancing rules. Sanitising your hands as you enter buildings, for example, remains crucial – please don’t lapse into over-confidence.

You will have seen in the press that face coverings in class remain compulsory until May 17th at the earliest. Given the infection rates around here, that makes sense to me. With statistics continuing to show that around one third of people with Covid are asymptomatic and worries around false negatives in the tests, there remains a good chance that we are passing on the virus without knowing it.

As young and healthy people, it is easy to think that we can just get on as normal now – even when younger people get the virus, the side-effects are rarely very serious. However, what we continue to ask of you is not just for your benefit. It is for the benefit of the whole community and your families and friends outside school who you have contact with and could pass the virus onto. They will be much more vulnerable than you. I therefore repeat that Government advice that it remains best to act as if you might have the virus.

A week today, I will be working with my senior leadership team to review arrangements for the second half of this term, a period that usually sees some of our bigger annual events. We are hopeful that school fixtures will return. Cricket and athletics certainly lend themselves to social distancing rules. Day visits outside school should become possible again and I very much hope that we may be able to have Speech Day, the Sixth Form Leavers’ Ball and the Year 11 Prom in some form.

Outside of Covid, perhaps the biggest news item affecting us has been around the experiences of sexual harassment and violence reported by girls in UK schools. Over 11,000 anonymous posts have been placed on the Everyone’s Invited website, perhaps in itself a reflection of how difficult girls may find it to report abuse officially. Last week the government announced that a new helpline, run by the NSPCC, would offer support to potential victims and provide advice to children and adults.

Mrs Stewart will be making sure over the coming weeks that our PSHEE and tutor time schedules focus on this issue, ensuring that all pupils understand that they have a responsibility to treat each other with the utmost respect – and certainly not engage in behaviours that you may see on television or in other forms of media that promote a Lad Culture. The aim of education is for you all to be conscious of, and to have a conscience for, your actions and words, whether that be in our classrooms, on our corridors or outside of school altogether.

I want you all to know that any report to us will be taken with the utmost seriousness, following Government guidance to the letter, including the involvement of the police. Unlike Everyone’s Invited, we can’t promise confidentiality; however, also unlike an anonymous website, we can promise full investigation. At Fulneck, we take great pride in our inclusivity – whether that be race, religion, sexuality or gender – but, like my plea earlier on Covid, we will never be complacent.

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