Bishop Bavin School has, since its inception in 1991, been an institution where diversity is not only respected, but encouraged. Our staff, learner and parent bodies all reflect this diversity of race, age, gender, language and culture. In no way, however, does this suggest that the school has resolved all issues of race, gender, privilege and culture, but rather that we provide a very good platform from which to discuss and address such issues.
In November 2014 a very diverse committee comprising College staff and learners was established to look at the learner code of conduct with a specific brief to establish whether the regulations governing appearance and grooming were still appropriate for a South African school twenty years after the formal demise of Apartheid. In particular, the committee was tasked with trying to establish guidelines that would enable the school to distinguish between modern fashionable styles and what was culturally appropriate and acceptable. The regulations around these issues were slightly amended at the time to try to ensure greater awareness and acceptance of hairstyles that did not conform to those adopted by traditional, colonial, single-sex schools.
The discussion about these issues continued through into 2016, as we felt that the regulations still contained a racial bias. We consulted with other co-educational schools that have similar demographics to ours, and we continue to engage with staff, learners and parents around this issue. In particular, the Executive Head has had several discussions with the current Grade 12 group to ensure that their opinions and views are taken into account when reviewing the regulations again.
In the light of recent developments, this issue has become more pressing, and so the school will immediately reconvene the committee established in 2014. The committee will be expanded to include staff from the Prep School as well as a range of learners from different grades. They will be tasked with performing a full review of the regulations pertaining to grooming and appearance, subject to two criteria: the learners need to look smart and presentable so as to be good ambassadors for the school, and their hairstyles should not interfere with their everyday school life. These regulations will then be communicated, explained and implemented across the College, Prep and Junior schools, and we will continue to review and amend regulations into the future.
The Board and Executive Committee of the school will also look into and monitor all practices and norms within Bishop Bavin to try to ensure that there are no other subtle racial, cultural or gender stereotypes built into the functioning of the school.