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Peter Symonds is first sixth form college to make anti-racism pledge

Peter Symonds is first sixth form college to make anti-racism pledge

On Tuesday 16 May, Peter Symonds College, Winchester, held a unique event to pledge its commitment to anti-racism. It is the first sixth form college to hold an event of this kind; no other college, to our knowledge, has taken such significant steps to demonstrate participation, and actively encourage, the shaping of its culture from the entire College community.

Peter Symonds Principal, Sara Russell, who led in the reading of the pledge, said:

‘Our College ethos of celebrating individuality, promoting community and strengthening representation is one that we are proud of, but there is more that we can do. Pledging our commitment to anti-racism and encouraging the College, as a whole, to continue to shape a culture and community to which everyone can belong is a priority for us.’

The anti-racism pledge event brought together students and staff who shared their insights and experiences of what it means to belong and to be represented within a large, diverse college community. 

Zac Hussain, President of the Student Union, said: ‘For me, anti-racism is about knowing what racism is, the forms it can take and being able to take action against it. One of the best things about Peter Symonds is that we are treated as individuals and our differences are celebrated.’ 

Stevy Abrahams and Tisha Latkar, also shared their experiences and explained why representation matters. Tisha said: ‘When I was younger, I felt under pressure to adopt a culture that wasn’t really mine, or who I was. This pledge allows us to open doors to other opportunities to raise awareness and make positive change.’

Stevy added: ‘At Peter Symonds, there is the freedom and opportunity to really express myself in the way that I want. Being able to explore our culture and share it with others, such as on Ethnic Clothing Day, has been one of the best moments so far.’

The landmark pledge event was also attended by Robin Landman OBE, Co-founder and Director of the Black Leadership Group (BLG). Since December 2021, Peter Symonds College has been affiliated with the Black Leadership Group, an organisation which to challenge systemic racism and is an authoritative voice of Anti-racism in the F/HE, schools, public, voluntary and private sectors. 

Robin said: ‘This pledge by Peter Symonds College is an important initiative and builds on some of the great work the college has undertaken as a leading member of BLG affiliate community.

‘We especially applaud this because Peter Symonds is one of the country’s largest sixth-form colleges with a rating of outstanding, so this is a top institution in education that is truly leading the way on anti-racism. Making this pledge is a collective college decision, and demonstrates strong leadership on an important social issue.’

With over 4,300 students, Peter Symonds has a vibrant, diverse student community and many are proactively involved in a wide range of cultural societies, action groups and forums aimed at raising awareness and promoting equality, diversity and inclusivity (commonly known as EDI). Lee Slaymaker, team leader for the College’s EDI forum, has seen an increase in active participation from students since the pandemic.

Lee said: ‘Our EDI focus is: celebration, participation, representation; and students at Symonds very much take the initiative in creating events, awareness campaigns or activities that allow everyone to share, learn and enjoy different cultural experiences. It’s fantastic to see students and staff working and learning together, as a community, to ensure everyone can have a strong sense of belonging.’

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