In our first senior school Assembly of term last week, the very first thing we did was to sing the school song. This song refers to the history of Ascham (which was named after the tutor to the great Queen Elizabeth I, Roger Ascham), and then continues with these words:
With heart and soul we tread the way
Which leads to freedom and to truth
To do our best in work and play
And by our actions show the proof
Which dwells in our sincerity
O Ascham this we owe to thee
Vi et animo – With Heart and Soul – is the school motto, and it struck me, as the theatre resounded with the sound of strong female voices, how important it is to reflect regularly and openly on what schools stand for. Exploring the words of the school song reminds us why we are in school: With heart and soul – that is to say, in everything we do, with our entire being – we tread the way – we learn, we become educated, we move forward, we grow – the way Which leads to freedom and to truth – we have a goal, a vision that transcends our daily lives – To do our best in work and play – we give our all, we do and are the best we can be – And by our actions show the proof – we commit to this, we will do this – the proof Which dwells in our sincerity – our intentions are sound, they are based on strong values, and we mean them.
Schools – great schools, that is – are very strong and vibrant places, with a clear purpose. And what is learned at school is far from restricted to academic subjects or school activities. At school, students are in fact learning about themselves, and about others. They are learning about their capabilities, they are learning what it is they have to offer to the world, and they are learning to look up and beyond who they are currently are, to who they can and should become.
Moreover, they are learning to live with other people, to relate to other people, to appreciate and respect other people, because their life will be richer in the future because of others, and so will the lives of others because of them.
Most importantly of all, our students in schools are learning all of this because they have a huge responsibility in life – they are learning to make the most of who they are, and to become the best person they can become, so that they can contribute to making the world a better place. It is our collective responsibility as a society and as a human race, and this is why, ultimately schools exist.
Our school song is very clear – we are committing to treading the way to freedom and truth, to doing our best and to making a difference in the world. It is so easy, from day to day, to be caught up with the practicalities and logistics of life, and to tumble from one thing to the next without taking time to reflect on our purpose, let alone to articulate it clearly and beautifully in word and music. Schools are places where groups of young people gather together with a purpose and an intent that speaks of the hope they are offering for the future and for our world.
Let us sing this from the rooftops.