On Tuesday 11th November a quiet stillness fell over Leighton Park School at 11am marking the silence for Remembrance Day. Sixth Formers, William Otty and Owen Turner, played the haunting notes of ‘The Last Post’ standing outside Old School in the heart of the grounds and the sound echoed poignantly across the lawn and playing fields, reaching the whole school community.
Over the last six months Leighton Park has planned and delivered a series of events to mark the centenary of World War I in a way that respects the significance and impact of the Great War, as well as reflecting the Quaker testimonies of peace and reconciliation. Low key, yet inclusive of all members of its diverse international community; solemn yet allowing voices to be heard; reflective yet enriching for all participants; these have been the goals.
At the end of June, Year 9’s ‘Global Awareness project’ researched and discussed important issues relating to war and conflict such as the morality of weapons of mass destruction. Also in the Summer Term, Year 8 examined the role of Conscientious Objectors in detail as part of their History curriculum.
The first day of the new academic year witnessed an open air Meeting for Worship in remembrance of the 28 Old Leightonians who lost their lives in WW1, and whose stories are told in the book ‘Great Ideals: Leighton Park School and the First World War’, published last year by our archivist, John Allinson, and Head Girl, Charlotte Smith.
As the Autumn Term has progressed a series of three Collects have reflected on the tragedy of the First World War and on war in general. The Collects have centred around the Tavistock Square memorial for conscientious objectors in London and around the introduction of eight historical characters closely connected with Leighton Park who represent a variety of attitudes to, and experiences of, the First World War.
These eight characters were the focus for the off-timetable day in October, marking the end of Quaker Schools’ Week, when twenty four teams of mixed year group students spent the day engaged in a character research project each creating a display about one of the eight characters. The level of motivation and commitment amongst students and staff was high and the resulting displays demonstrated the ingenuity, resourcefulness and creativity of each group. Even more rewarding was the students’ emotional engagement with the subject matter.
The Sixth Form Peace Conference held on the same day provided Year 12 and 13 students the opportunity to debate the nature of peace and conflict in today’s world and the three visiting speakers tackled a variety of difficult and insightful questions from the floor.
The Peckover Gallery has hosted an exhibition ‘Reading at War’ supporting the academic curriculum and offering students, staff and parents an insight into the impact of war on the local area and the Reading community.
And finally, the History Club, a group of Year 7 and Year 9 students, have put together a database of stories about the links members of the Leighton Park community have with war. By interviewing and collating the stories that staff, pupils, parents or Old Leightonians may be able to tell they aim to show how we have all be affected by war and conflict and to illustrate the significance, tragedy and hope that comes out of these conflicts.