Navigating the news in an age of ‘Post truth’ politics

Students at Rossall are encouraged to take an active interest in current affairs. The re-establishment of the Model United Nations and Debating Societies are reflective of the dynamic intellectual culture that currently pervades our community. It is no surprise that our boys and girls are politically engaged and care deeply about social and environmental issues. As they prepare to become the leaders of the future, it is important that we encourage them to look outwards whilst retaining a keen interest in local issues on the Fylde.

I was delighted to be joined by some of our Sixth Formers this afternoon to discuss some of the more intractable issues of the day. We touched upon gender inequality, knife crime and the growing domestic problems currently gripping Venezuela. I found it fascinating to listen to their contrasting perspectives on the issues that we explored. Backed by journalists such as Huw Edwards, Steph McGovern and Alex Jones, the BBC Young Reporter provides training, resources and mentoring for young people.

“BBC Young Reporter is about tapping into what really matters to young people, and giving them an opportunity and a platform to tell their stories.” -Tony Hall, BBC Director-General

I am very proud that Rossall has participated in the BBC School Report for a number of years and I thank Mr Hugh Fitzherbert-Brockholes for promoting this most worthwhile of ventures. The political landscape can appear especially bewildering to young people. Endless discussion of the Irish Backstop reminds me of the great Prime Minister Palmerston’s famous reflection upon a similarly complex issue:

The Schleswig-Holstein question is so complicated, only three men in Europe have ever understood it. One was Prince Albert, who is dead. The second was a German professor who became mad. I am the third and I have forgotten all about it.

Lord Palmerston

Furthermore, the fragmentation of parliamentary politics and the formation of parties within parties such as Momentum and the European Research Group add an additional layer of confusion. If you then factor in the manipulative algorithms of Google and Facebook which serve to reinforce and amplify pre-existing biases then it is difficult to understand how young people are expected to be able to negotiate their way through this labyrinthine world of half-truths and falsehoods. It strikes me that we have an absolute duty to ensure that young people are able to evaluate evidence judiciously.

Like many Schools we celebrate the international dimension of our community. On Tuesday we enjoyed a special gala dinner to which we invited all of our international pupils and some of those who work on their behalf. However, localism is important too and, by way of contrast, I visited Father John Hall at The Mustard Seed Group, which is an outreach service based at St Peter’s, Fleetwood. The Mustard Seed Group offers hot nutritious meals to those within Fleetwood who need a little helping hand. It provides, company, warmth and fellowship to those who are struggling. It is a tremendous initiative and I am delighted that we enjoy such a warm and positive relationship with St Peter’s. I am incredibly grateful to Father John Hall and his team at St Peter’s for agreeing to look after our chaplaincy here at Rossall School into the future. The School has a strong Christian ethos and Father John’s knowledge of the School is second to none. He has been a member of Council for some years and his daughter, Elizabeth, teaches in the Design Technology Department. As we seek to become increasingly involved in community projects within Fleetwood itself (such as the Community Trust), I am sure that we will benefit enormously from this strong relationship. I look forward, in due course, to welcoming parishioners from St Peter’s to our beautiful chapel.

In 1894, the Old Rossallian Club was founded and this weekend it celebrated its 125th Anniversary. We were thrilled to welcome back so many Old Rossallians to School for the triennial weekend which, this year, marked the 175th anniversary since the foundation of the school.

One attendee at the first dinner held in 1894 was the Reverend St Vincent Beechey who had established the school along with the young Corsican Zenon Vantini back in 1944. By 1894, he was approaching his eighty ninth year though he would live on to become the oldest serving priest in the Church of England, dying slightly short of his 94th birthday. On that occasion he said, reflecting on the School’s early years:

If I look back as in a dream to that anxious and laborious time, I can now look forward, with aged Simeon’s eyes, to a prospect of future confident trust that Rossall is now in the high road to permanent prosperity as an established Public School.

St Vincent Beechey (far left, seated) at the wedding of his granddaughter Mabel Champion Jones, in Camberley, Surrey, on 27th of July 1898. Mabel Champion Jones was the daughter of Beechey’s daughter Charlotte.

The exceptionally strong turnout at our second Open Day of the year has put a real spring in our step. As ever, our students were our best ambassadors and we are immeasurably proud of them. The fact that a growing number of families want to be part of the incredible journey that this School has embarked upon is testament to the hard work and dedication of all those who work at this wonderful school.

Have an excellent weekend!