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“Our School is a place where we come to reflect on society and not merely be a reflection of society.” These words are shared by our Headmaster, Tim Browning at Open Mornings for new families. I often spend time giving consideration to these words and discussing with staff and students about how this connects with the language used by and within our community.

Recently I attended a local sporting fixture and found myself considering this quote further. I was appalled at the language being used by some spectators around me. Demeaning and derogatory comments were being made at the opposition, umpires, their own team and also other spectators. These comments turned what was supposed to be an enjoyable day with friends into just the opposite. Fortunately, a number of members of the crowd asked politely for the inappropriate language to stop. Unfortunately, it did not. From there help was sought and security removed these members from the oval. While at this game a number of students from St Peter’s College took their time to come up and say hello and respectfully ask how I was enjoying the game on the weekend. It was great that they took their time to say hello, but it made me reflect on the language they were hearing in this context.

Demeaning, derogatory, sexist, racist, religious insults and homophobic language MUST not be used in our community and in society as a whole. We all need to stand up for what is right, reflect on the places where this language is being used and be leaders for change. Sports fields, social media, playgrounds… I could go on.

What can we do to empower our children to ensure they do not use this language but also have the courage to call out and seek help if they hear this language being used?

Our St Peter’s College Wellbeing Framework utilises the URStrong program to provide students with the tools to be able to give a quick comeback when they hear hurtful, mean on purpose comments. Being able to quickly say to someone ‘Your language is offensive or inappropriate’ and then move away from the situation and seek help. The important part for our community is we empower the children to know when to seek help and ensure that they are provided the help that is needed. Our students are asked to think of five adults who they can go to and ask for help. I encourage you to speak with your children about developing their quick comebacks, practicing these and also supporting them to know who are their five trusted adults. Help seeking behaviours are an important learning tool for our children.

The work we do across our classrooms encourages our students to explore language, cherish language and understand language. It is heart warming when you visit our classrooms and hear appropriate descriptive language being used in written pieces and speeches, when questions are being answered and in discussions among classmates and friends. I still reflect fondly on the Latin lessons I had at school where we were taught an appreciation of language. But I also remember being taught the quick comeback that ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’. Names do hurt. Names are offensive. Kindness costs nothing. Let’s reflect on the language we use and hear and ensure as a community we use the language of kindness; language of gratitude; language of care; language of friendship.

Throughout this year we have a trial of SchoolTV which focuses on providing strategies for staff and parents to support their children with mental health strategies. I would like to highlight two themes of friendship and belonging and cyberbullying linked to this article. Both provide some interesting interviews and articles from leading psychologists to help navigate friendship challenges that our young people face.

Please take some time to share this article and the themes with your children. I will be visiting classes and year levels across Week 11 to challenge our students to reflect over the Easter break about language and how we can lead change in our community and beyond. If you have any questions or comments I would enjoy spending time discussing them with you and your children.

Ben Storer
Deputy Head of Junior School – Wellbeing and Administration