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Letter from the Chief Master

09 June 2020

To the signatories of the open letter about KES and Enoch Powell,

Dear all,

Thank you for your thoughtful letter about Enoch Powell in the light of current events. I was pleased to discuss this on the phone with Patrick yesterday afternoon. You won't be surprised to hear that a number of current pupils have also wanted to discuss this issue. I hope it might go without saying that my colleagues and I understand the points you have raised in your letter and indeed, before receiving it, we had already begun to take steps to think about how the school should respond to the important debate, currently alive.

Quite simply, the school does not tolerate racism and under no circumstance would advocate for any type of racism. With respect to the particularly provocative presentation of Enoch Powell on the website, you will have noticed that this had already been taken down. Detailed investigation over the last few days revealed that the offending webpage is an initiative from over 10 years ago that has not been picked up since then. The page had been removed from the website, but unfortunately the footprint of the page remained online. Since we have been notified of this, we have made every effort to remove it from public display and are taking further action to remove it from the archiving site, which is beyond our immediate control and will take a little longer to resolve.

More broadly speaking, in terms of the education we provide, we have never shied away from teaching King Edward's boys about controversial issues. In more recent years, this has come even more to the fore with the introduction of the IB, which inherently seeks to educate young people to understand the perspectives of others. We all recognise this is a challenge, and one of the great things about this school is the intelligence in arguments and openness to debate that boys and staff continue to show.

I had a long discussion on this very topic with the prefects last week, who themselves suggested that we should discuss Enoch Powell and indeed Francis Galton, recognising the destructive impact of their writings and speeches on race for the society they spoke to and worked in. Tomorrow the School Captain and a number of boys will present a Big School on this area. This will be broadcast to boys at home tomorrow and we will make the link available to Old Edwardians in due course. Their presentation will be followed up in PSE lessons and in due course through the proposed Foundation-wide School Council. Just a few years ago, an Old Edwardian who is a leading expert in the philosophy of race gave a talk to the Agora on ‘The white-washing of the curriculum'. This talk covered challenging material, including the work and views of Enoch Powell and Francis Galton. I have no doubt similar discussions will be planned next term.

As your letter indicates, it would be wrong to obliterate elements of the school's history that disturb or offend. As I have already discussed with Patrick, the website and the Old Edwardians' section are ripe for review and we will undertake this over the coming months.

We cannot erase history, we can only endeavour to shape the future. I hope that this is something that you will support the school in achieving: I would be keen to hear further thoughts from Old Edwardians on how we can work together in this endeavour.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Katy Ricks