New head: ‘I worry about gap between debate and intolerance’

The new headmaster of one of Croydon’s biggest and most influential schools has called for more independent, challenging thought and debate as a challenge to increasing levels of intolerance.

New head: Christopher Ramsey

“Breadth of experience, breadth of reading and willingness to engage are crucial first steps,” Christopher Ramsey, the new head at Whitgift, wrote this week.

Ramsey took over this month at the £19,500-a-year private boys school in South Croydon. Ramsey is the school’s 26th headmaster in a history traced back to 1600. He succeeded Dr Christopher Barnett, who retired in July after being head at the 1,300-pupil school since 1991.

One of Ramsey’s first changes since becoming head is to write a weekly blog, and in its latest edition, he chose to praise elements of his school’s extra-curricular activities.

“We’re all in favour of independent thought aren’t we?” Ramsey writes. “I’ve spent years as a head banging on about it, and you can expect me to continue.

“Never has it been more important than today for our best young people to use their minds to know, learn and critically consider the world around them. Note the order: first you need to know and respect what others have said and written. Then you learn from it. Then you question and form your own ideas.”

Ramsey was previously head at King’s College Taunton and The King’s School, Chester. He is a member of HMC, the association of independent schools’ headsteachers, and is their spokesman on higher education.

Whitgift School: open day this Saturday

In his blog, he writes, “HMC… commissioned some research last year into students’ attitudes at university. And though there was lots that was positive, as well as much to concern us too, I worry that in many areas a gap is opening up between open, academic debate, as it has always been championed in universities (and the best schools) and intolerance.

“Since our young people are, we hope, increasingly tolerant, they need to develop rigorous, thoughtful independent minds. Breadth of experience, breadth of reading and willingness to engage are crucial first steps.”

Whitgift School stages its annual open day this Saturday, September 23. Advanced booking is not required to attend.

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