From the Deputy Head Master – Summer Hill

Train up a child in the way he should go;
    even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22

I have been reflecting on some reports of insubordination and sexism by our Cadet recruits that was uncovered in the Camp Feedback Forms we ask your sons and daughters to complete after their Annual Field Training each year, a matter that I raised with the boys and young men of the School last week at Quad Assembly. Of course, the School has been following up so that corrective action may be taken and individual students held to account, but it reminded me of the importance of not turning a blind eye to disrespectful behaviour, and the importance of pushing back against the discredited “boys will be boys” excuse that was once a common response to poor behaviour. I have written often of the importance of respect, the inextricable link between rights and responsibilities, and that young people make errors of judgement.

As a teacher of boys for over thirty years, I have attended many professional development seminars and workshops, but one that sticks in my mind was a seminar on behaviour management. The presenter, Dr Bill Rogers, made the point that for young people, it is not the severity of any ‘punishment’ that is most important, it is the certainty, and this is a mantra that has been reflected in my interaction with generations of Trinitarians. I am absolutely convicted that boys and young men have the right to experience the logical and proportional consequences for their actions, and that letting them off or giving them another chance  is counterproductive to the goal of leading the boy or young man to taking responsibility for his actions. Celia Lashlie, the author of one of my favourite books, He’ll Be Ok, says something similar when she suggests boys and young men need to be clear about the expectations, and what will happen if there is a breach of those expectations, in her amusing and pithy summary that boys “need to know what they have to do, when they have to do it by, and what happens if they don’t do it”.

The School insists on high standards. It prizes respectful relationships. It holds the unambiguous view that racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, or discrimination on the basis of gender, religious belief or skin colour is unacceptable. It understands young people have the right to be taught right from wrong, to be treated respectfully, and to experience the logical consequences of their actions.

Mr Bowden asked your sons a rhetorical question about how we learn to be a decent respectful adult earlier this week and posited that it was, in part, the importance of modelling, by significant others, of high standards of behaviour, but that children and young people also need to be proactively taught by schools and by families how to grow up to be men of character, decency and integrity.

Bradley Barr | Deputy Head Master – Summer Hill

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