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A New Identity
129 years after its foundation in 1891, students and staff voted to change the name of their school to Montpelier High School, after a detailed and transparent consultation process that invited views from across the city during the summer of 2020.
The process required students to navigate a complex and emotional issue with skill and maturity. They demonstrated respect for others throughout the process and acknowledged that there are many views and opinions that reach far beyond the city itself.
After the decision to change the name of the school was announced in October 2020, students, teachers, governors and trustees embraced the opportunity to forge a new identity to represent the school’s diverse and inclusive community.
A working party of students developed a list of potential new names, drawing on the feedback gathered during the public consultation and the in-school debates and workshops. The working party presented ten potential new names to the Venturers Trust Board who shortlisted three, which students and staff then voted on.
The choices were split into nouns and suffixes with voters able to rank their preferences in each category. From a choice of Montpelier, Liberty and Concordia; and College, High School and School, 62% of votes favoured Montpelier High School.
Four students who played a pivotal role in shaping and delivering the consultation are Hemlata Pant, Heidi Szynkaruk and Sophia Bailey, all in Year 11; and Betsy Maguire, Year 13.
When the results were announced, Hemlata said: “The entire student body has been a part of this process and I’m excited by the result today. But this isn’t just a moment, it’s the beginning of something much bigger and as a community, we’re helping to shape the future of the school.”
Heidi said: “Change isn’t something that comes naturally, as we learnt from the public survey. It can be emotional and difficult but also joyful and welcoming. This is the start of a new chapter for our school, with a more inclusive name being the first step.”
Sophia said: “This process has taught me how to be brave and strong; also how to really listen. Experiencing democracy and the outcome of our collective effort is inspiring. I hope that this important moment in time is remembered for years to come.”
Betsy said: “It’s been incredible to be part of this process and to work alongside others on such a monumental project. I’m certain that there are students in this school who will change the world. Be it through challenging opinions or championing ideals for the future, every single person here should feel proud of what they have achieved.”
The school’s senior leadership team, governors and trustees, all agreed that inviting the students to shape and deliver the consultation, and to have the final say on what the new name should be, was the right decision. The students conducted themselves with integrity throughout the entire process and they successfully used the power of their own voices to influence change.
When the statue of Edward Colston was rolled into the Bristol harbour in June 2020, the then-named Colston’s Girls’ School became an integral part of the debate over how to contextualise the past so that we learn lessons to create a better future.
The entire process provided a unique opportunity for students to experience democracy first-hand and to learn how to bring together many different views in a safe and structured environment. They welcomed opinions that were different to their own, they didn’t judge others who presented opposing views and they emerged with a result that has been a catalyst for many positive changes within the school. Above all, students demonstrated that they are compelling and inspirational young people with the ability to listen and lead.
The new name chosen, Montpelier High School, presented a new beginning for a school whose history dated back to 1891. The next significant task was to develop a visual identity by designing an emblem that the entire school community would feel proud to wear.