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From the Head's Desk - February

A regular feature of our blog are some of the topics which Mr Paget-Tomlinson shares in his regular assemblies. Here he reminds pupils of the importance of listening to those who want to help you.

I am sure there isn’t a single one of you that hasn’t written something they later regret. We know how easy it is to say something in a text or WhatsApp in the heat of the moment when you would never do that face to face. Maybe you meant it as a joke, but this is not always possible to guess, even allowing for emojis, from the context of what is actually written. On my recent trip to Mexico, the airport in CDMX listed all the things that you cannot take on a flight, they even had a helpful pile of things to illustrate this, including ammunition, a samurai sword and my personal favourite, a human skull. Alongside this cabinet of curiosities was a sign that I had not seen before, it reminded passengers that saying certain words out loud and in messages inside the airport could lead to you being removed from the airport.

Coincidentally I read recently about a man who recently made a comment on Snapchat that caused a major incident. The message, sent he departed Gatwick airport, read: "On my way to blow up the plane (I'm a member of the Taliban)." This message was picked up by the UK security services who flagged it to the Spanish authorities while the plane was still in the air. Two Spanish fighter jets were sent to flank the aircraft, with one jet following the plane until it landed at Menorca, where it plane was searched extensively. Appearing in court the gentleman concerned said the message was "a joke in a private group setting".

We may find this incident funny, ridiculous or stupid but it was serious, and taken seriously. What you write has consequences that you can quickly lose control of. The written word has an emotional impact all of it’s own. Throughout history people have written things that have led to arguments, fights and even revolutions. Words have a huge amount of power when written down and the effects they have on others can sometimes spiral beyond what the author or authors had in mind. The papers report, sadly, many instances of students who have been caused great distress by comments, images or messages shared by friends who have no idea about their impact. 


Sometimes the things people write and share have consequences far beyond what they intended. I ask you to think carefully before you send that message and always consider the impact and the consequences. Ask yourself how things might be viewed, rather than just how you intend them. Saying the wrong thing can have life altering significance not only for the other person, but also for you.