Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Gandalf actor Sir Ian McKellen helps students banish bullying once and for all!

Everybody’s ‘Tolkien’ about Townsend
Gandalf actor Sir Ian McKellen helps students banish bullying once and for all.

Actor Sir Ian McKellen, famous for his roles in the Lord of the Rings and X-Men films, cast his spell over pupils at Townsend Church of England School during a recent successful visit to the school on behalf of Stonewall organisation. His mesmerizing and inspiring talk to students, staff and guests was followed by the unveiling of a revised ‘Respect for All Statement’ the school has had as a mission statement for many years. The revision includes a specific reference to not abusing anyone because of their ‘gender or sexual orientation’ and has come about through powerful student voices at the school where students have been keen to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying head-on.

The Hollywood actor, known to millions for his turns as wizard Gandalf and supervillain Magneto, congratulated students on their ability to defeat all forms of bullying at their school in St. Albans.

Sir Ian, a co-founder of Stonewall, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans equality charity, called the school’s example on respect and tolerance “inspiring.” 

The knighted thespian, who has brought to life many memorable characters on stage and screen, said that the LGBT community and its allies had fought a long battle for equality, which still continues today. He spoke eloquently and passionately about his own personal journey against prejudice and discrimination.

“Townsend’s updated vow to support students and staff of any sexual orientation, as well as religious or ethnic background, was an important stepping-stone in the LGBT community’s quest for social acceptance” he said.

The actor heard how the school deals with inclusion for LGBT students and staff, before meeting with the school’s anti-bullying ambassadors. At an address to the school, Sir Ian then unveiled the new Respect for All policy, to cheers from the packed hall.

Townsend’s Headteacher, Mr Wellbeloved, called the speech “poignant and inspirational,” adding that it left students and staff in admiration for the actor and the work he has done. 

At the end of his address the school was lucky enough to witness Sir Ian perform a monologue on the themes of tolerance and community, from the Shakespeare play ‘Sir Thomas More.’  Year nine student Faith Haran called the address “exciting and thought-provoking.”

Sir Ian McKellen, who has worked since the 1980s to end prejudice against the LGBT community, welcomed the school’s stand against discrimination. “I am honoured to unveil the new line, which empowers students to tackle any discrimination on grounds of gender or sexual orientation,” he said. 

At the end of his visit to Townsend, Sir Ian thanked staff and students and described the Church of England School as “friendly and inspiring.”

Townsend C of E School continues to thrive following an Ofsted inspection in December 2014, where inspectors awarded a ‘Good’ grade, praising the school for its work in creating a safe and productive learning environment for all.

A key element of the report was the anti-bullying work also heralded by Sir Ian during his visit. “The strong ‘Respect for all’ policy permeates throughout the school and leads to a very effective development of students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural understanding,” inspectors wrote. “Discrimination is not tolerated. Students are clear about what is right and wrong and their responsibilities and opportunities for learning.”

Head Mr Wellbeloved stated that the Respect for All policy was “at the very heart” of Townsend school’s beliefs. “This change in our policy is very significant and meaningful to the school and all of its partnerships,” he said.