Education at Richmond Park School has to focus strongly on every pupil’s academic progress to ensure each individual can fulfil their potential. Equally important- or possibly more so- our teachers will support the pupils in their personal development as they gradually acquire greater self-awareness and come to understand others. In terms of their relationships with other people, there are three key concepts which need to be defined and distinguished from one another.

The most common of the three is ‘sympathy’. Essentially, sympathy means feeling sorry for someone else’s pain, misfortune or suffering. While this is meant to be positive and shows that we care, it can be interpreted differently and is not in itself sufficient. Many people in unfortunate circumstances do not want to be pitied as it makes them feel denigrated or belittled.

The second concept is ‘empathy’. When we empathise with someone, we go much further. We are not merely viewing the situation from our point of view but rather sharing the emotional experience; in this way we can understand far more deeply and offer more effective support. In colloquial terms, we ‘put ourselves in other persons’ shoes’. This takes courage and patience but creates a kind of combined strength and fortitude.
The final and vital concept is ‘compassion’, which completes the process. Through experiencing other people’s hardship or pain we come to fully understand them and then offer them support. The feelings lead to positive action. Also, true compassion does not discriminate, it reaches out to everyone.

This move towards greater understanding takes time and, in one sense, never ends. We are confident that through reflection, analysis and discussion, our pupils will realise they should not look at others from afar, but move closer, stand by them and reach out a helping hand.

*Given the content of this newsletter, we strongly advise key stage 3 students  to read it as well