Principal's Assembly 4th May 2021

On Sunday 18th April, it was announced that 12 football clubs from England, Italy and Spain - including six of the Premier League's biggest - had agreed to take part in a new European Super League.

Football authorities across Europe, former players and even the Prime Minister were all swift to condemn the plans which were viewed by most fans as driven solely by greed. Within 24 hours current players and managers, including Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool, one of the “dirty dozen”, started to articulate their objections.

Marcus Rashford, currently as close as football has to a national treasure, tweeted a reminder of the famous words uttered by the late, great Manchester United manager, Sir Matt Busby: “Football is nothing without fans.” Current Liverpool captain, Jordan Henderson, reminded his fans that they would “never walk alone”: the players’ commitment to ordinary fans was clear.

By the Wednesday of that week, all 6 English clubs had withdrawn and the project appears to be dead in the water.

Last assembly, I talked about the inevitability of change and the importance of approaching it positively. I did mention, though, that not all changes are good and most people with an interest in football have agreed that the ESL was a fairly bad idea.

The protests held across England against the project allowed fans to voice their concerns. No doubt some of you will wonder why they were policed very differently to the vigils following the death of Sarah Everard, but I think that is a discussion for another day.

The point I want to make now relates to something I said last time. I suggested, in short, that the sooner you accept change and get on with it, the more likely a positive outcome.

What I did not want to suggest is that it’s always easy to do that – all change requires effort and many people don’t respond well to extra efforts. What I also do not want to suggest is that you should suffer change in silence. In fact, it is healthy to express your anxieties, frustrations and even anger in the right way.

I know my colleagues, for example, will have found the right way to express their feelings about the way in which the Government has handled this year’s GCSE and A Level assessments. It’s really important that we learn to handle our feelings as well as the changes. For once, Premier league footballers may have set a decent example.

Professor Steve Peters is a psychiatrist who has famously helped sportsmen and women and teams to improve their performances through a better understanding of how the mind works. Clients have included Stephen Gerrard, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Sir Chris Hoy.

In 2012, he published a personal development book called The Chimp Paradox and, in 2018, a version for younger people called My Hidden Chimp. Peters explains that two parts of the brain are responsible for our thinking and decisions, the rational part that we can control and the emotional part that we find hard to control. He labels the latter as an inner Chimp that can take over and lead to rash decisions and destructive behaviours. Examples might include over-reacting to situations, worrying about decisions and not making them or beating yourself up about decisions you did make.

This inner Chimp is part of our make-up, you can’t get rid of it and when it is upset it can take over, but you can tame it.

Take again as our example the maladministration of GCSE and A Level assessment this year. I don’t blame you for being anxious and I don’t blame my colleagues for being angry. Steve Peters would say that this is one of those times that we need to accept his three Truths of Life:

1.       Life is not fair.

2.       The goal posts move.

3.       There are no guarantees.

I’ve recently had a situation in my professional life that caused me a great deal of pain – in fact, it made me incredibly angry – and, in the end, for my own sake I have had to accept that I am not going to win however unjust that might be. Instead, I’ve found the least damaging outcome and just decided to get on with it. If you are in Year 11, I strongly urge you to do the same.

Our Chimps are that lazy part of us that doesn’t like to change or try new things. They are also prone to giving up too easily.

In the remainder of today’s tutor time, I want you to think about an occasion when you have allowed your inner Chimp to take over and how, in retrospect, you could have made a better decision. Maybe one day I’ll tell you about the time I was sent off in a football match …

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