This morning someone turned up at the school gates wearing a mask over their whole face as part of a costume, playing loud music and trying to engage with the students. It was part of a protest. When approached by staff they refused to say who they were or talk to us at all. While we might agree with their objectives, and it could be seen as funny by some, it upset others, had the capacity to really unsettle some SEND students and affected the preparation for the start of the GCSE English examination.

As a school we have no problem with the principle of protests. This would have been something we could work with if the person concerned had not been playing loud music and not covered their face. The former upset a neighbour who is elderly and nursing a partner with Alzheimer’s disease. This can also be a difficult thing for children with autism to negotiate and there are at least two for whom this might have been very worrying indeed. The latter is a dangerous precedent to set. People standing outside schools wearing masks and approaching children is rarely healthy and never when they refuse to identify themselves. The police did arrive but too late to challenge whoever is responsible. I am sure they would still be interested to talk to this character.

This particular morning we had students going straight into their GCSE English exams. We would have preferred a normal start to their day and the opportunity to wish them well at the gates rather than have to deal with somebody grandstanding and deliberately trying to make it as unusual a start as possible. Staff who would have been with Year 11 students had to manage this person instead.

I am sure the aim was to appear brave, noble and misunderstood by establishment figures. In fact they were rather irresponsible and self-indulgent.

If you know who it is it would be wise to have a word with them and let them know they are welcome to engage with the students as long as we know who they are. We are happy to talk with them about how best to convey their message without upsetting people in school and our neighbours. A lot of us have a great deal of sympathy for the cause espoused. We think it can be better advocated with a less adversarial and more thoughtful approach.

As an aside (unless that was the point) choosing a stormtrooper as an advocate for environmental reform is probably an own goal, given they were trying to destroy whole planets at a time, apart from being the most useless soldiers ever for hitting the mark. Perhaps this person just likes the tune.