A great deal has happened since I spoke to our S5 pupils in June and shared my reflections following the appalling killing of George Floyd which had galvanised the consciousness of so many people around the world. At that time, I set out my aspiration that Watson’s should unequivocally become a community in which racism would find no place.
We remain locked in a battle with COVID-19 and although we have tried at Watson’s to restore some sense of normality to life at school, inevitably this term has had a fair share of frustrations as a result of the restrictions, disruptions and new obligations that have been a result of efforts to keep ourselves and others safe.
Despite the continuing strangeness of these times, I am proud of the progress that we have made towards making Watson’s an anti-racist school. That progress has been made on many fronts:
- Further research into the history of George Watson, although hampered by the closure of archives due to the pandemic, has established an initial picture of Watson’s involvement with the trade in enslaved people. As a result we will be able to give a more rounded and accurate account of his life at our next Founder’s Day in February 2021. We still need to reflect on what this means for us as the school that bears his name today.
- We have begun the process of establishing an up to date and effective suite of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policies which go further than mandating our compliance with statutory obligations but which connect with our values and our ambitions for our pupils and our wider community. These policies will drive better, more inclusive and enlightened practice throughout our school.
- We have begun a programme of anti-racist education with the support of our partners at Intercultural Youth Scotland. Central to the development of this programme has been the insight given by the lived experience of our BAME/BPOC pupils.
- We have begun the process of interrogating our curriculum and other practices to identify how we can make it more inclusive, respectful and relevant to our pupils whose lives are lived in an increasingly diverse society.
- The Watsonian community has embraced the challenge to recognise diversity and has welcomed and facilitated the establishment of a Watsonian BAME Section, open to all Watsonians but with the specific role of providing a voice for BAME Watsonians and supporting current BAME/BPOC pupils.
- Archival research has enabled us to establish more about the history of BAME pupils at Watson’s during the twentieth century and to celebrate some of their remarkable achievements for the first time.
There is still so much to do and the urgency of doing it remains. This urgency is driven not only by the sense that justice cannot wait, but also by a determination that as we emerge from the nightmare of the pandemic we should do so in a way that sees our community become a better version of itself and which enables all its members to thrive as never before. As Ben Okri put it:
We should begin to think anew
To prepare ourselves for a new air
For a fuller future
The preparation will be rewarding
For we are each one of us saviours
And co-makers of the world we live in.