Schools in the independent sector are taking part in a variety of projects, competitions and discussions this October for Black History Month.
At the recent Boarding Schools’ Association heads conference, the head of King Edward’s Witley, Joanna Wright, spoke about how progress has been made with diversity in independent schools, but that prejudice was still prevalent.
The head of Millfield, Gavin Horgan, said that the school reflected on its teaching and curriculum over the summer months and realised that there was more to be done to meet the needs of all pupils.
Data from the Independent Schools Council (ISC) shows that the proportion of pupils from a minority ethnic background at ISC schools has increased in recent years – from 23% in 2009 to 34.9% in 2020.
At Brentwood School, pupils are celebrating the contributions made by historical black figures every day of October.
The student-led project will see a daily tribute to an influential black person, including an image, biography and inspirational story, highlighted on TV screens around the school, displayed on a bulletin and posted on social media.
On 1 October, the school honoured American poet Langston Hughes (see image above), who wrote novels, short stories, plays and poetry about black life in America from the 20s to the 60s.
The school is also hosting related assemblies, themed art competitions and form time discussions in both the senior and prep schools.
In the senior school, pupils will watch and discuss the documentary series Stephen: The Murder That Changed a Nation, take part in a fine arts competition inspired by Black History Month and listen to a lecture about black artists.
In the prep school, each year group will study a particular person or event. Year three will look at the life of Mary Jane Seacole, a British-Jamaican nurse, healer and businesswoman, while year four will study the Windrush and Jocelyn Barrow, the first black woman to serve on the BBC board of governors.
On 14 October, the school’s caterers, Holroyd Howe, will create a lunch of Afro-Caribbean cuisine, and prep pupils will be asked to wear something red to mark Show Racism the Red Card Day on 16 October.
It was clear that our students felt very strongly about this subject and that we needed to make a change to ensure our education system is less biased – Kensington Park School
Queen’s College in Taunton started the month with a presentation in chapel on equality and diversity in their curriculum. Pupils will learn about and celebrate the achievements of British black people in their lessons, assemblies and form time.
King’s Rochester is hosting a variety of discussions, film screenings and workshops, and head boy Joshua gave a chapel address to senior school students about the influence of black history and culture in society.
Pupils are also taking part in a series of unconscious bias sessions in partnership with Rochester Learning, discussing what unconscious bias is, its origins and the detrimental effect it is having on society. Pupils will be shown clips from Channel 4’s documentary The School That Tried to End Racism, where children took part in the same conversations.
St Paul’s Girls’ School marked the beginning of Black History Month with a student assembly and lecture from The Rt Hon. Stuart Lawrence, launching a programme of events running in and outside the classroom throughout the month.
At Kensington Park School, pupils are taking part in a house competition where they have to research an important figure in black history, and produce a poster on them and why they think they are important.
In an assembly, the school asked pupils to share their thoughts on why British black history hasn’t been widely covered in the school curriculum. “It was clear that our students felt very strongly about this subject and that we needed to make a change to ensure our education system is less biased,” the school said in a blog.
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