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The headteacher column with Jonathan Britton

Jonathan Britton, headteacher at Woldgate School.
Jonathan Britton, headteacher at Woldgate School.

Last week, my assembly focused on the value we place on education – as individuals and as a society.

To me, education is a fundamental right and is essential in ensuring our children can learn and be inspired.

Woldgate School and Sixth Form College.

Woldgate School and Sixth Form College.

Education is an essential part of intellectual freedom, and one of its main values is improving how pupils view, exist in and participate in the world.

It encourages the sharing of ideas and experiences, which helps pupils become better members of the community by teaching morals, ethics and community responsibility.

It is about the imparting of knowledge and wisdom, gained through the centuries, a testament to our humanity.

Ultimately though, an exceptional education is not just about filling young minds with knowledge and wisdom, it is about creating that spark that fires an imagination; thoughts, creating a lifelong passion to learn.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire” - William Butler Yeats

For Nobel prizewinning pupil Malala Yousafzai, the right to be educated drove her to become an activist who campaigned passionately to overturn a decision that banned girls from going to school in her native Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan.

Yousafzai became a prominent activist for the right to education – a cause she championed before and after she found herself the target of an assassin.

She founded the Malala Fund, a non-profit organisation, and in 2013 co-authored “I am Malala”, an international best seller. In 2012, she was the recipient of Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and the 2013 Sakharov Prize. In 2014, she was the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Kailash Satyarthi.

Aged seventeen at the time, this made her the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate.

In 2015, Yousafzai was a subject of the Oscar-shortlisted documentary “He Named Me Malala”.

‘One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world” - Malala Yousafzai.

Her story speaks of her passion for education and her belief that school can transform lives and allow individuals to pursue their dreams.

Education can be life-changing. In ‘lighting that fire’ we create in our young people a desire to learn and that new knowledge, like food, will feed their thoughts and imagination.

It is, therefore, fundamental and essential in any society. We should never take for granted its importance.

We should also never forget the 130 million girls who, worldwide, are also denied an education.