This week, during lessons and assemblies, I have been encouraging the girls to reflect on some of the things that are happening in the world and asking, “What is the defining spirit of our time?” We decided that a theme has emerged: people coming together, with one voice, to bring about change. We’ve seen it in climate protests; we’ve seen it in the Black Lives Matter movement; and, more recently, we’ve seen it in the US election, where the appointment of Kamala Harris as Vice President Elect signalled another step towards gender equality.
I’ve written before about the magic of synergy. From the Greek word meaning, ‘working together’, synergy describes a multiplier effect – by coming together we are always stronger than the sum of our parts. As we prepare to unite the two halves of our school, we will come back to this idea again and again. Synergy is something we witnessed in school this week as we enjoyed another virtual concert. Thanks to the Music Department, our brilliant musicians, and the wonders of technology, we escaped our bubble-bound existence for the evening: performers from all year groups appeared on our screens, captured separately but edited as one. A visit from Phoebe in Year 12 yesterday picked up this same theme of togetherness: Phoebe described to me her vision for a live-streamed, fully-inclusive, socially-distanced version of Momentum (for those new to the school, this is the Brighton Girls annual dance spectacular – and it is not to be missed). Things will be different this year, but the show must go on, and we will find ways of bringing the whole school together.
Working together to bring about change is the theme for this year’s Anti-Bullying Week. As Wendy Fox explained in assembly on Monday, this year’s campaign slogan, ‘United Against Bullying’, challenges our existing notions of bullying and invites us to reflect on the parts we all could and can play – this is not about the active roles, but the passive ones too. The film produced by the Anti-Bullying Alliance to accompany the campaign reminds us of our collective responsibility: “Even what you don’t say and what you don’t do makes a difference”; “Choose to be an up-stander rather than a bystander”.
The United Against Bullying campaign reminds us again of what we can achieve if we come together and speak with one voice. As Miss Fox expressed on Monday, the collective voice we are hearing more and more in school is a voice that champions our school values: be kind and be bold. These same values are embedded in the messaging around Anti-Bullying Week, and they are integral to the positive changes we are seeing in the wider world.
As cited in the Anti-Bullying Week 2020 manifesto for change, “This year, more than ever, we’ve witnessed the positive power that society can have when we come together to tackle a common challenge.” What we hope to see in our students, both in their actions in school and in their response to current affairs, is an understanding that powerful things can happen when courage and kindness combine.