Principal’s Blog: Making Sense of It

This week we have been thinking about events in Paris knowing that, like 9/11 for a previous generation, this will be one of the key events remembered from childhood. It has been difficult for our students to make sense of it all and of how they feel about it.

There is the obvious reaction of fear – could this happen in London, in Plymouth, in St Austell? Anger – who are these people who think they can commit atrocities in the countries that they live in themselves? Mistrust – what is radical Islam and is it the same as the Islam followed by our Muslim students here or by Muslims in Cornwall? We teach our students that there is specific teaching in the Koran against killing others, against turning against your own community. These are messages that are ignored and it is a continuous hurt to those who follow Islam that their religion has been stolen as a cloak for evil. This is not new; Christians in the past have conducted massacres and atrocities in the name of religion – as has every major world religion. People choose to hide their deeds and lack of humanity by pretending it is part of a greater cause. There is no cause that can be won by violence towards others.

We certainly teach that violence has never solved anything, which love is stronger than hate, that people who work together are stronger than those who seek to destroy. The message from one Frenchman has gone around the world and it fits exactly with our message too.

There are some practical implications for us of the terror attacks in Paris; the question of whether we can take our students there in the summer of 2016. We hope that by then the present emergency will have finished and Paris and France are back to normal but the current advice is not to bring school trips to France.

We still want to go but we must make sure it is safe – whatever safe means in what feels like an increasingly dangerous world. We have grown up in an environment in which the threat of invasion or attack has not been prominent in the way it was in World War II or even the height of the Cold War in the 1960s. We had bombings from the IRA in the 1970s but since then – and especially in the rural areas of the UK such as Cornwall – it has always felt very safe. It is still safe here and the probability of being hurt in a terrorist attack in a brief visit to London or Paris is not high, even in the current situation. The perceived risk, what our imaginations provide, is much higher than the actual risk, so making a decision about how safe is France in July 2016 is not going to be easy. We will work with parents, the people on the ground in France, advice from Central Government and our own risk assessments before making any decisions. Read more about these decisions here.

But life goes on; children are highly resilient and we have students working hard in lessons, doing Duke of Edinburgh, playing sport and competing in events such as ShowJumping as they did last week, and as they will continue to do every week.

Penrice remains a bright, vibrant community. One that delivers hope, aspiration, tolerance for the beliefs of others and optimism that the next generation will do better than the last in creating a safe and just world.

David Parker, Principal