Concerns have been raised by students about The Vyne School's handling of recent use of racial slurs.

This is the letter headteacher Nicola Pearce sent to parents and pupils over the weekend, following the news that students would be holding a small protest today (Monday). 

Dear Vyne Community,

Important Sensitive Issue

I am writing to you because I believe we have an opportunity to have a powerful conversation as a community together in the coming weeks.

This conversation is part of our work on celebrating diversity in our community and building a caring accepting community which recognises that we are all different in different ways but all part of one community together.

There has been some tension in the community on how we should all respond to Black Lives Matter, students have been having a number of discussions about Black Lives Matter and racism more widely.

This has however on a number of occasions become heated arguments and led to conflict between groups, with each strongly believing in their view point.

The tension is around how to respond to racism, it is important to note that during this discussion, at no time has any student expressed a racist view point.

Some of my colleagues and I have had a number of conversations with students last week.

My conversation has then been shared with students out of context and implying that I think the use of the N-Word is allowable due to freedom of speech.

This is clearly not my view or the conversation that was had. I have clarified this with the students involved in the conversation.

The N-word is a very emotive word, where its history is complex and complicated. The more recent use of it in films and music complicates the issue further. The context of its use is essential to its intent.

Some students and adults will hold the view that the word should never be said out loud in any situation, others will hold a view that it can be said when referring to the word itself, others will view that in some circumstances it may be acceptable such as in music but it depends on who is saying it.

What is clear is that there are a range of opinions which are in conflict with each other.

Those who use the word as a racial slur should always be clear that that is always offensive and not acceptable in any situation.

This is a difficult conversation to have with our community, but essential if we are to move to a situation where there is a shared decision of what is agreed acceptable language in our school.

We are embracing the opportunity to engage in this conversation with the community. We have already collected some student voice on the issue in school and I am encouraged by their responses and engagement.

We are privileged to have a visiting speaker later this week to share his experiences as part of Black History month.We are fortunate to have the support of Jim Roberson, an education consultant next Monday and we will share with students how they can be involved if they wish to be in shaping this work in school.

I acknowledge that students feel that we have not done enough or acted quickly enough in this area, we are bringing forward planning and prioritising this school conversation. I encourage students to be active citizens and express their voice, however this should be done in a spirit of kindness and care towards each other.

I am aware that a call has been made for students to gather on Monday morning.

However, I believe that engaging in a meaningful conversation will be more productive. The school is committed to tackling any prejudice based bullying and will act in accordance with the school's behaviour policy to ensure it is dealt.

Also I would draw attention to the fact that the school has worked hard to ensure that students do not mix outside of their "year group bubbles" to prevent the spread of Covid 19, and at this time to gather in this way would put students and their families at risk of the virus spreading.

We will keep you updated on this work in school, if you wish to discuss this with me or a member of the Senior Leadership Team please do make contact.

Mrs N Pearce