The headteacher column with Mark Ronan

Pocklington School headmaster Mark Ronan.
Pocklington School headmaster Mark Ronan.

2016 was a tumultuous year in terms of the political landscape. First Brexit, then Donald Trump’s presidential election victory in America and, all the while, the tragic events in Syria have dominated the news channels.

It is an uncertain time, however the UK and US votes have injected fresh interest in the political process.

Pocklington School.

Pocklington School.

Our teachers have harnessed that interest by incorporating the events into lessons and hosting some useful classroom debates.

The apparent omnipresence of social media means today’s youngsters are more likely to be aware of current affairs and the comment surrounding them.

But the easy access to unregulated – and sometimes unreliable – sources means they don’t always get a balanced view. The NSPCC recently reported a sharp rise in the number of children seeking help for anxiety and suggested that increased exposure to global affairs on social media was the cause.

It said many of the 1,000 children per month speaking to counsellors about anxiety via its Childline service cited disturbing events seen in the media and on social media as being the source of their worries.

Some of the overseas boarders at our school have more personal concerns about the consequences of political events.

Some fear the repercussions for their immediate family; others are troubled by the implications for their home country.

It’s only natural for children to worry, especially as they become increasingly aware of the world outside, but when that anxiety interferes with their home and school life, they need extra support.

Where individuals are concerned, we have kept a watchful eye and reminded them we are there to listen and help.

We have arranged phone calls home for boarders, where necessary, for reassurance from their families at home.

But I believe the whole school, staff as well as students, can draw strength from our key values in an uncertain world.

Pocklington School’s core principles come into their own in times like these, and it’s both reassuring and valuable to remind ourselves of them.

The School motto ‘With Truth and With Courage’ reflects our support of open, honest and informed debate to stimulate creativity, intellectual curiosity and initiative.

It takes courage to challenge others, of course, but courage is also required if we are to challenge ourselves to change for the better.

In the spirit of democracy, it is right to encourage debate and discussion, rather than shutting it down. But we are stressing the importance of taking responsibility for our words and actions, and basing our opinions on a variety of credible sources, rather than unfounded opinions.

Our aim is to empower pupils to judge for themselves whether an expressed view is reliable and reasonable.

We encourage them to balance inflammatory opinions by accessing other, more credible, sources and considered views to arrive at their own truth.

Personal responsibility and service to others are expected in our school, as this will serve pupils well in the world beyond. Our Christian ethos guides us to be friendly, compassionate and respectful towards each other; and to “value others above yourselves”.

At Pocklington School I hope that by stressing the values we hold true and upholding them within our community we can instil a solid foundation that not only inspire our pupils, but will also be a lifelong source of strength.