Prince's Mead School children with head master

Headmaster’s Notes: The Great Debate

5th March 21

This week we have enjoyed a focus on the importance of public speaking, inspired by Year 3’s competition where all pupils performed exceptionally well. In fact, I was so inspired that I was reminded of Martin Luther King’s speech, ‘I have a Dream’, that was delivered with the same energy and emotion all those years ago. The ability to speak your mind is an important human right and the world we live in today offers more opportunities for free speech than at any time in history. Yet, oddly, we recognise that it is also under threat with various examples of late of severe limitations imposed by those who are more concerned about causing offence. Given the recent attacks on free speech, it is worth reminding ourselves of its importance.

At Prince’s Mead we are always thinking how we can best create the conditions in which we agree on how we disagree in the classroom. Science, history, the Arts and mutual understanding between children will not continue to make the progress we enjoy unless children are encouraged to express themselves freely, and argue at times. Removing historical figures from conversation too will not be taking place. There is a place for every one of them in our discussions. For example, had Lord Nelson lost at Trafalgar, a weakened Royal Navy would not have been able to establish the West Africa Squadron that policed the abolition of slavery. However, contemporary figures such as Marcus Rashford, Malala or Greta will also be part of our informed curriculum: they are all part of celebrating British culture and learning too that we haven’t always got things right in the context of today’s progressive standards.

As we welcome back pupils next week, we will be encouraging them to employ their right to speak freely. But to also use it responsibly and to respect the breadth of opinion that we so value in our place of learning. That is why we are launching our Debating and Drama society next term. In the words of Nelson, England expects that every man will do his duty and it is the duty of all of us to ensure Prince’s Mead continues to remain open for healthy debate in our pursuit of knowledge.

Mr Peter Thacker