Always Part of Blue Coat

From the Headmaster's Desk, March 12, 2019

Last week I reflected on a question that I was asked in the Sixth Form Special – it was an easy question to answer – why did I become a teacher.  This week I’d like to reflect on one of the more difficult questions that I was asked in that Special:  do I think it is right to control what you do outside of school.

In the Sixth Form Special, of course, I had to think on my feet, and I don’t think my answer was bad.  I said I disagreed with the suggestion that we control what any of you do outside of school.  There are 760 pupils here, and when you go home after school or for the weekend or on holiday, we have no direct control over what you do.

This said, I am interested in your behaviour at all times, because whether or not you are in school, and whether or not you are in school uniform, you are a pupil at Blue Coat and your actions and behaviour reflect on the school.  To be clear, this is the same for all staff as well.  And indeed, it is the same for me.  We are all part of One Reading Blue Coat – even former pupils.  The reputation of this school rises and falls with the behaviour of all of us.  The conduct and behaviour of one of us reflects on all of us.

At best, I hope that all of you conduct yourself well wherever you are.  I hope that you show care, consideration and courtesy in all that you do.  When you’re walking around the School, in the queue for lunch, representing the school at rowing, football or netball, I hope that you act in such a way that would make us all proud.

This is why I often thank pupils for their behaviour on trips, as I do this week for those on the Royal Navy field weekend and the Model UN event.  On such occasions you are ambassadors for the school, and your good conduct promotes our reputation in a positive manner.

Whilst we are an independent school, at Blue Coat, we are still expected to fulfil many government requirements.  One of these requirements is that we uphold British values, including respect for the rule of law.

You may not be aware but when staff apply to work at Blue Coat, we undergo a very thorough recruitment process.  We verify applicants’ qualifications to ensure they are legitimate, and then we also do extensive police background checks.  We do this in order keep you all safe; we ensure that a criminal cannot lie their way into a job here, and then eventually do something that might potentially harm one of you.  If an applicant to work at the school had a criminal record, of course we would consider carefully about whether or not they are suitable to teach at Blue Coat and interact with young people.

And when pupils join Reading Blue Coat, you agree to follow a number of rules, and your parents sign a legally binding document called our ‘terms and conditions’.  As part of coming to the School, you agree to uphold certain standards, follow the rules, and yes, part of what is written in these policies is that you will avoid any criminal behaviour outside of school.

If a teacher were caught outside of school breaking the law, be it with possession of drugs, drunk driving, theft or some sort of violent crime, of course we would consider whether or not it is appropriate for them to continue to work here.  And the same for a pupil.  At best, as I said above, I expect you all to be respectful, kind and courteous to others outside of school, so that your parents and I would be proud of behaviour.  As a minimum, I expect you not to break the law.

Overall, I am exceptionally proud of your behaviour and conduct.  Compared to other schools where I have worked and visited, we have very few problems.  Most of you are lovely all of the time.

Two little things that disappointed me last week.  One was a complaint I received:  one of you was queuing to get on a bus just outside of school, still in your school uniform, and you were pushing and being aggressive and said, ‘school is over; I can do what I want’.  There were members of the public present who witnessed this – and complained.  Of course that does not represent well on you, nor does it on the school.

Secondly, you may not know this, but whenever someone receives a yellow card by a society referee, I get a letter from the English Schools Football Association fining the school £10 and explaining the name of the player and the reason for the offense.  Obviously this does not reflect well on the individual involved, but it also reflects poorly on Reading Blue Coat.

I’m conscious that as Headmaster my behaviour also reflects on the reputation of the School.  For example, on Saturday afternoon I went to Twickenham to watch England play Italy.  At lunch beforehand I sat down and another member of Blue Coat staff was at the table next to me.  There was also a former parent in the restaurant.  When I got to the match, just down my row was another Headmaster.  Wherever I am, I know that I represent the School, and my behaviour is important.  I do not stop being the Headmaster because I’m outside of school at a sporting event on the weekend.

I’m always on duty and my conduct and behaviour is always important to the School.  That’s part of the responsibility of being Headmaster.  But the same is true of all of you.  Your conduct and behaviour represent the school, your family, and ultimately yourself.  Every choice you make and every behaviour is part of your legacy.  You are writing your own life story, and I hope you all make good choices that make all of us proud at every point.  You don’t stop being a Blue Coat pupil once the bell goes at 4:10pm and you leave the school gate.  In fact, even when you’re an Old Blue, your conduct can still make us proud and reflect well on the school. Or vice versa.

So a much longer answer to one of the more difficult questions I was asked.  Your parents do not control your behaviour directly inside of school, but when they find out you behaved well, they are proud of you and congratulate you.  And if you misbehave, they will hopefully have words with you.  And similarly, the school does not control your behaviour outside of school, but I hope that your behaviour is such that ultimately you are proud of it, as would be your parents, teachers and me, as Headmaster.

Have a very good week.

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