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Parent Bulletin 25/06/21

Please see the latest bulletin from Mr Solly below...

Dear UCC families,

Throughout this week we have celebrated diversity, as part of PRIDE month. As a school we pride ourselves on our inclusivity and we have a very strong reputation for this across the county and beyond. UCC is recognised for being a warm, welcoming and inclusive school, but one which has high aspirations for all young people. Part of our role is to ensure we build on this reputation and further enhance it. This won't happen by magic, and it shouldn't just happen by osmosis, because we are nice people; as much as it should be genuine and authentic, and we are proud that it is, it should also be deliberately planned and strategic. This is where I think we can do even more, and the work of colleagues throughout this week in raising our collective awareness of inclusion and diversity issues is part of this. We have a team of colleagues and students who really want to make a difference in this area, and I hope we can all provide them with support in creating an even more inclusive and welcoming school environment. I want to share an email with you all that I received from a student last month. I thought it was a mature and responsible way for them to express their concerns and it certainly raised my own awareness of the language I use around school and in written form. It has made me think and reflect, and I feel it is important for everyone to understand how some young people feel about such matters. The student was happy for me to share the email with you all, here is what they wrote:

Dear Mr Solly,   

I would like to address something that has come to my attention over my years here at UCC and I hope to push forward so others feel more accepted in the school community. 

 Gender or lack thereof plays a major role in most people’s lives, so I urge you to help make school a safe, inclusive community for those of us currently isolate by gendered language. Even if the teacher is not aware of anyone in that particular class that is not exclusively male or female, inclusive language should be used. A simple change such as not separating or dismissing students in girls and boys would make a huge difference.  

Throughout my entire life the phrase ladies and gents has always harmed my mental health. It made me question my identity; it also made me feel alone and wrong. What if I’m not a boy or a girl? Am I broken? These are questions I still ask myself when I am in school and I hear boys and girls or some other variation of the phrase. Our school prides itself on kindness, honesty and respect, as a community we could we show more respect for those of us who may be non-binary, genderqueer, bigender or so much more? I know I was afraid of coming out as trans, non-binary as school had never shown any inclination of understanding that there are more than two genders.  

Another thing I have noticed, is when my mother reads me school emails pupils are always referred to as son/daughter, this is unhelpful for those of us who are not a son or a daughter but rather just a child. However, I applaud that on a recent form there was a gender option of non-binary. Me and my family have also received masses of help and support from my form tutor Miss Ives and I have had no problems with any of my teachers. I understand that it is still not widely accepted but simple language inclusivity goes a long way to changing how accepted people feel. I would love to know that for the younger years this will be a safe, inclusive environment to grow, learn and explore life without fear.  

Yours sincerely,  

A non-binary student concerned for the future.   

Simple steps I have taken, following this email and the subsequent conversation I had with the student, was to stop writing 'sons and daughters' in communications to parents, and to stop addressing groups of students as 'boys', 'gents', 'girls', 'ladies' etc. I have found it hard to use pronouns correctly and have constantly found myself using 'he', 'him', 'she' and 'her' when talking about some of our young people who identify as non-binary. I have discovered that this is quite normal, but it does require us to know our students as individuals and really understand them. The student I spoke with told me that pronoun slips are not offensive, but it is really appreciated if people can start to make a conscious effort in using gender neutral language. I know it is a complex topic, but I would really appreciate the whole school community developing their understanding of this area and how some of the young people in our school feel about it. The teenage, formative years for young people can be challenging enough without the difficulties of understanding their sexuality and gender, and how this may or may not be accepted at home, or in the communities they live and learn in. Mrs Hirst and Miss Clayton have led the way in raising awareness throughout this week and I am pleased that we are making positive steps to support young people by developing advocates in school and a support group involving colleagues and students.

Year 10 exams
Year 10 have been absolutely superb this week. They have approached the end of year exams with great attitudes and I appreciate the work everyone has contributed towards this being a very successful process. 

Year 7 Positive Covid case
Unfortunately, today we have had to ask all of our Year 7 students to remain at home following the news we received last night of a positive case in this year group. We are running through our internal track and trace process today to identify close contacts. Those students who aren't close contacts will return to school on Monday.

Local Covid cases
You will have most likely read in the local press, that cases in Uppingham have spiked considerably in recent weeks. Along with the positive case we have in school, the outbreak at Uppingham School is a concern for us, given that we have many links with them, with parents who work there and other members of our school community who access the site. We have reminded our staff and students about social distancing where possible, along with hand and respiratory hygiene. Given the local and national increase of cases we have also recommended that students wear their face coverings when in classrooms and corridors to protect themselves and others - this remains optional though, and students will not be sanctioned if they choose not to wear them. 

I hope you have a great weekend,
Mr Solly