Many of you have written to me about the need for black history to be taught at school, and to be mandatory on the national school curriculum. I agree. In this letter to Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education I urge that the government implements these calls but also that to expand the demand by adding in the need for all equalities strands and intersectionality; as with ethnicity, so too with gender, sexuality, and disability. We must ensure that our curriculum is rich, diverse, and inspiring for all our children and young people.
Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP
Department for Education
20 Great Smith Street
15 June 2020
Re: Diverse school curriculum
I am writing to you to urge you to implement the calls for black history to become mandatory in the school curriculum. I would also like to expand the demand for mandatory black histories to be taught by adding in the need for all equalities strands and intersectionality to be covered in different parts of the curriculum, including gender, sexuality, and disability.
In my constituency of Bristol West, where the Edward Colston statue was removed during the Black Lives Matter march, many onlookers suggested that the removal of the statue was the first time they learnt of his role in the transatlantic slave trade, the role the city played as a major port for trading, the wealth that was extracted from the colonies to the UK, but also the horrors of colonialism of which the transatlantic slave trade is just one example. This is wrong – and this is one reason why our schools must teach this.
Importantly however, the national curriculum must not stop at teaching colonialism responsibility and truthfully. Black history and voices are excluded in History class as well as across the subject board. This omits the vast contributions of black people to the UK, and as a result young people are not given a full or accurate version of British history. It is so important for young people of colour to be able to see themselves in what they are studying, and by not learning about the prominent black educators, scientists, researchers, artists and many other figures this is contributing to the exclusion of young black students, and allows for the systematic inequalities in our society to perpetuate. Education is key to breaking down these barriers and it must begin at school.
As with ethnicity, so too with gender, sexuality and disability. This is not about tokenism. It’s about ensuring a curriculum which is rich, diverse and inspiring for all our children and young people. When I was a young child growing up in an all-white area, I had no idea that Asian women could be politicians, scientists, artists and so on. It was not until much later that I discovered that there were plenty of high-quality examples of all three and more. I’d like to make sure that our black and ethnic minority children, our children with disabilities or from families with a disabled person in them, our boys and our girls and every child across all demographics can see their reality and their potential reflected in their school curriculum.
This is why I reinforce the Black Curriculum’s requests specifically to include black histories on the national curriculum from KS1 – KS4, to include black British histories across different subject areas including History, Science, Citizenship, English and PSHE and more. It’s also why I am asking you for attention to a diverse curriculum across all strands of diversity.
- Will you set out a plan for establishing the curriculum materials, training, support for implementing and firmly embedding high quality Black Histories curriculum and similarly for other aspects of diversity?
- Can you set out your plan for consulting on this, with deadlines?
- Can you involve MPs and other elected representatives in this?
I look forward to hearing your response.
Thangam Debbonaire, MP for Bristol West