I think it was Winston Churchill who said that as Prime Minister he wielded far less power over the country than a Headmaster exercises over his school. King Canute may well have understood the real limits of his power a little better.
Headmasters like to think that they have the power to control what happens in school. Closer examination will reveal that this is not quite the case. Over the past ten years pupils have been given a greater role in the development of their school. The opinions expressed in the research conducted by Rubin and Silva (2003) make it clear that not all pupils are happy to have their school run for them – “Without the voice of students, schools serve no purpose. They are nothing but institutions where adults run and tell you what you need to know in order to continue this tradition of, this cycle of ‘we have master’s degrees and we know what’s best for you so just shut up and deal with it’.” Here at the BSP we regularly seek the opinions of our pupils in formal and other ways. Sometimes the pupils’ voice is so strong that before you know it the school is looking at important matters in a new way.
Let me introduce you to the Senior School Eco Team. Over the course of the last year they have acted as our environmental conscience. They have approached their task with enthusiasm. They have collected paper for recycling, checked that teachers have turned off classroom lights, worked in the school garden and have given assemblies. They have expressed their overriding concern for our environmental wellbeing not by talking but by acting. They have led the initiative on the introduction of honey bees to the school, they have challenged us to become a plastic bottle free school and they will be encouraging parents to purchase a range of environmentally friendly products at the coming Summer Fair. This week they engaged in a letter writing campaign to President Macron regarding the use of pesticides in France. He may believe that he is controlling the country, but I would counsel him against such certainty now that he faces the dynamism of the Eco Team. I am pleased to report that they were firm yet deferential in tone; there will be no Presidential telling off.
When I meet students who are willing to give of their time for the benefit of others I am given hope for the future. We are a world desperately in need of such commitment and responsibility from our young people. It is to their very great credit that they have the maturity to act in this way. Please do take some time when you come to the Fair on 30th June to look at their stall and have a chat about what else they have planned to “green” our campus. I have no doubt their campaign to persuade us to act in an environmentally responsible manner will continue to grow in the coming years (whatever I may think). I have no doubt that they will make a difference. Where Canute may have failed, the Eco Team will succeed the tide will be turned.