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20 November 2020

Today is odd socks day. Boys and staff were encouraged to wear odd socks, the more colourful the better, to celebrate the fact that we are all unique individuals.

The day marked the end of anti-bullying week and the boys have enjoyed a programme of form periods, assemblies and PSHEE lessons on this year’s theme, united against bullying.

Warwick School must be a place where all members of our community feel celebrated regardless of their unique strengths and confident to be themselves. Odd socks day is about reaffirming our collective commitment to this. Unfortunately, this is not the case in many schools and young people who do not conform are often singled out and ridiculed because of their individual talents.

A few years ago, the BBC reported an online survey of 1042 children aged between 11 and 16. The survey suggested; That nearly half of UK children have played down a talent because of bullying fears. More than a quarter of those polled said that they had quit an activity they enjoy for the same reason. One in ten said that they had played down their ability in science. The poll also indicated that; nearly one in five girls and one in ten boys deliberately underachieved in maths to avoid bullying. 11% of young people had stopped singing, 8% had stopped doing drama, 9% dancing and 8% had quit a sport because of fears of being bullied. 

In short young people are afraid to show their talents because they are concerned that to do so will make them a target for bullies. This is a tragedy.

Whenever prospective parents ask me to summarise the best thing about Warwick School, I don’t talk about the superb teaching, the excellent examination results, the broad and varied co-curricular programme, I talk about the culture of achievement and aspiration, Warwick is a place where it is good to do things well. At the start of my career I spent a few years teaching at a large comprehensive. If I hadn’t got another job I don’t in all honesty think that I would still be a teacher. The most dispiriting thing about that job wasn’t the poor facilities, or the horrible home lives endured by some of the pupils, it was the fact that those who had talent, wanted to achieve and were prepared to work hard for it were frequently ridiculed and victimised because of their efforts and success. Consequently, many of them hid their ambition afraid that the jealousy of others would turn their achievements into a source of misery rather than joy. At times we can all be guilty of belittling others and their achievements, sometimes it is a self-defence mechanism to hide what we perceive to be our own failures and sometimes it is an ill-judged joke at someone else’s expense and we don’t realise the harm that this ‘banter’ could be doing.

A responsibility to try and create a better world around us is part of the Warwick Way. One simple way that this can be achieved is to fight that regrettably all too human reaction to the success of others and recognise that success, in whatever field, takes talent and dedication, to embrace the fact that we are all individuals and celebrate the strengths of others, whatever they may be, and to challenge those who seek to belittle those who possess talents and interests different from their own. If we all do this then Warwick will remain a special place where members of our community can be themselves and have no need to hide their talents or interests. The world will be a better place not only for them but for us all, because with variety comes colour and richness.