The Black Curriculum: Former SOAS student calls for more diversity in education

school children history

The Black Lives Matter movement, which has dominated the world for the past few weeks, has shed light on the many inequalities – both obvious ones and those that are more hidden – that exist in society today.

In the space of one month, BAME individuals have been found to be at higher risk of Covid-19, the Colston statue in Bristol was momentously toppled, and protests across the globe have taken place in support of Black Lives Matter. Clearly, there is much to do in terms of educating society about Black lives — and it needs to start with the children.

There is currently a gaping hole in history lessons at school level — Black history just doesn’t seem to feature. Former SOAS student Lavinya Stennett, who graduated with a First Class degree in BA African Studies and Development Studies, wants this to change.

Last year, Lavinya launched a social enterprise called The Black Curriculum — this organisation does what it says in the tin — but also so much more. The Black Curriculum seeks to incorporate arts focused Black history into the curriculum for students aged 8-16, with the aim of increasing understanding and social cohesion.

‘As a social enterprise committed to the teaching and support of of Black history all year round, our aims include:

1. To provide a sense of belonging and identity to young people across the UK.

2. To teach an accessible educational Black British history curriculum that raises attainment for young people.

3. To improve social cohesion between young people in the UK.’

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, and the subsequent global Black Lives Matter protests, it’s clear that The Black Curriculum is needed now more than ever. The organisation is calling on the government to teach ‘an accurate version of British history’ and encouraging anyone in support of this aim to write in support of this — you can download the email templates from their website.

Over 20 years after the publication of the The Windrush Review and The Macpherson Report (following the murder of Stephen Lawrence), which both recommended that Black history be included in the school syllabus, nothing has changed. In 2013, Black Briton Mary Seacole was very nearly dropped from the National Curriculum, but after a backlash, the decision was reversed. Seacole is in the minority though — history lessons in the UK are arguably whitewashed, and rarely mention the role of Black people in Britain’s history. The Black Curriculum want to change this – and they need as much support as they can get.

What can I do to support The Black Curriculum?

  • Continue to educate yourself on the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • Take a look at their social media — The Black Curriculum is a fantastic resource, and their platforms are full of well-explained and informative posts.
  • Write to the Secretary of State for Education. Find templates for letters or emails to Gavin Williamson and Rebecca Long-Bailey on their website.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to support initiatives such as The Black Curriculum — they hope to ‘re-imagine the future of education through Black British history’ — and in 2020, this is way overdue.

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