Call for school to adopt a decolonised curriculum

A WOKINGHAM secondary school is being urged to adapt its classes in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

More than 350 current and former pupils of The Emmbrook School have signed an appeal stating that the institution’s curriculum requires amendments.

The document, in the form of a virtual open letter, was presented to the school by current students, alumni and pupil’s parents in an effort to show its headteacher Mr McSweeney that change is necessary.

Signatories asked the school to implement a ‘decolonised national British curriculum’ which teaches students about colonisation, slavery and ‘atrocities that Britain played a significant role in throughout history’. 

One alumna, Katie Hodgetts, who wrote the original letter, said: “I was inspired to start the letter by my friend Patrick Aberdeen who was a fellow student of mine at the school. 

“Following the death of George Floyd, Patrick took to social media to catalogue his experiences of racism at The Emmbrook School. 

“Reading this made me realise that I wasn’t a good ally to black students during my time at The Emmbrook School. Although I wasn’t racist, I now recognise that I wasn’t actively anti-racist.”

Along with nine other ex-students, Katie drafted the letter and amended it to reflect the experiences of a range of Emmbrook School alumni.  

She said: “The George Floyd incident has been a turning point for the Black Lives Matter movement as black struggles are being heard and amplified more than ever. 

“It’s also stressed the impact of white privilege on these struggles.”

The letter provides examples of the ways a new curriculum could be introduced, such as exchanging classic English Literature texts for those by BAME authors, and changing the topics of history lessons to better reflect the struggles experienced by black people.

Ms Hodgetts, who attended the school between 2007 and 2011, added: “During my time at the Emmbrook School I didn’t learn anything about history, and it wasn’t until university that I came across the word colonisation.

“A person’s school years are their formative years and the crucial time for students to learn about black history as well as the systemic racism that still exists today.

The 25-year-old former-student, who lived in Finchampstead, added: “I want to stress that this letter isn’t a critique of the school.

“Many of the signatories are old alumni who, like me, witnessed many micro-aggressions during their time at the school.

“Racial banter was very common and there was a distinction between how students treated black teachers, and how they treated white teachers.

“The school has reformed in the years since I left, however there are many improvements to the curriculum that can still be made.”

Responding to the open letter, which also includes a call for The Emmbrook School to become pro-actively anti-racist, Mr McSweeney said: “The Emmbrook School is committed to support the Black Lives Matter cause and fighting all forms of discrimination and injustice

“The School follows the National Curriculum but we want to achieve more.

“We are currently undertaking a full curriculum review as we move to a three-year Key Stage 3 and this is presenting an opportunity to refresh our curriculum to ensure that it is sensitive, inclusive and celebrates diversity. 

“We also embed Black History Month within all subjects and across all year groups. 

“In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, I received emails from dozens of our current students stating their desire for the School to show solidarity with this cause. 

“Many students have taken up the call and this will lead to the formation of a staff and student Inclusion Working Party.

 “Over the last year, Taj Bhambra (Deputy Headteacher) has reviewed and updated our behaviour and safeguarding policies and protocols, with a strong emphasis on inclusion.

 “We are proud that The Emmbrook School has alumni that are passionate, eloquent and committed to equality. 

“We stand with them as anti-racists and welcome the support of any members of the wider community.”

To view the open letter log on to bit.ly/37z2UUF.

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