Eleshea Williams – Media and Communications Manager, The Black Curriculum

#CurriculumDiversityDebate - On Monday 28 June, MPs will debate e-petition 324092, relating to Black history and cultural diversity in the curriculum. Chris Evans, member of the Petitions Committee, will open the debate. The Government will send a Minister to respond.

Teach Britain's colonial past as part of the UK's compulsory curriculum

The petition, which has more than 268,000 signatures, states: “Currently, it is not compulsory for primary or secondary school students to be educated on Britain's role in colonisation, or the transatlantic slave trade. We petition the government to make education on topics such as these compulsory, with the ultimate aim of a far more inclusive curriculum.”

In its response to the petition, the Government said: “The history curriculum at Key Stage 3 includes the statutory theme “ideas, political power, industry and empire: Britain 1745-1901”. Topics within statutory themes are chosen by schools and teachers.”

The debate follows a series of joint evidence sessions held by the Petitions Committee and Women and Equalities Committee last year, where the Committees heard from petitioners, experts and academics on the need for change. The Committees then put this evidence to Schools Minister Nick Gibb MP and an official from the Department for Education in a session in February 2021.

To inform this work, the Petitions Committee sought the views and experiences of teachers, school staff and home educators through an online survey. Key findings in the survey included:

  • 90% of respondents felt there should be a statutory requirement for all children to be taught explicitly about the history of Britain’s ethnic and cultural minorities, including Britain’s role in colonisation and the transatlantic slave trade
  • 45% of primary school respondents and 64% of secondary school respondents ‘strongly disagreed’ or ‘disagreed’ with the statement that ‘The National Curriculum ensures that students in my school experience a balanced range of ethnically and culturally diverse role models’.
  • 1 in 4 teachers told us they lacked confidence in their ability to develop their pupils’ understanding of Black history and cultural diversity. This lack of confidence was expressed fairly consistently by teachers no matter their ethnic background.
  • The most requested form of additional support was ‘Specialised CPD/in-school training’, selected by 88% of primary and 85% of secondary teachers

The debate will last 90 minutes, and will provide opportunities for MPs to question Government Ministers directly on these issues. The debate will take place in Westminster Hall from 18:15, and will be available to view here:

Where in the country was this petition signed?

The top 10 parliamentary constituencies that supported the petition ‘Teach Britain's colonial past as part of the UK's compulsory curriculum’ are as follows:

Constituency MP Signature Count

Bristol West

Thangam Debbonaire MP

2633

Hackney North and Stoke Newington

Rt Hon Diane Abbott MP

2302

Lewisham, Deptford

Vicky Foxcroft MP

2223

Brighton, Pavilion

Caroline Lucas MP

2151

Hackney South and Shoreditch

Meg Hillier MP

2077

Camberwell and Peckham

Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP

1962

Hornsey and Wood Green

Catherine West MP

1879

Islington North

Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP

1828

Dulwich and West Norwood

Helen Hayes MP

1761

Streatham

Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP

1732


 

 

 

Calls to include Black history and cultural diversity in the curriculum 

11th Nov 2020: Three Select Committees will hear evidence on Black history and cultural diversity in the national curriculum after hundreds of thousands signed petitions calling on the government to diversify and decolonise the curriculum.

A joint evidence session will be held by the Petitions Committee, Women and Equalities Select Committee and members of the Education Committee on 5 November following several popular petitions on this issue.

The petition Teach Britain's colonial past as part of the UK's compulsory curriculum, which has received more than 267,000 signatures to date, is among those that have led to the session, which will include evidence from Prof Rhiannon Turner from The School That Tried To End Racism documentary and Eleshea Williams from The Black Curriculum campaign group. The Committee will also hear from petitioners at the start of the session.

The petition states: “Currently, it is not compulsory for primary or secondary school students to be educated on Britain's role in colonisation, or the transatlantic slave trade.

“We petition the government to make education on topics such as these compulsory, with the ultimate aim of a far more inclusive curriculum.

“Now, more than ever, we must turn to education and history to guide us.”

Two other petitions, Add education on diversity and racism to all school curriculums and Making the UK education curriculum more inclusive of BAME history, have also received more than 114,500 signatures combined.

Ahead of scheduling a debate on these petitions, the Committee has agreed to work jointly with the Women and Equalities Committee to hear oral evidence on the issues that these petitions raise.

Today from 2.30pm, the Petitions Committee will hear oral evidence about Black history and cultural diversity in the curriculum. Rosamund McNeil, Assistant General Secretary of the National Education Union, will speak on a panel which also features representatives of The Black Curriculum, the Historical Association and backers of recent Parliament.uk petitions.

KevinCourtney100x100Commenting ahead of the session, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“This is an important conversation. Over 400,000 signatures were added to the petitions which the Petitions Committee will hear evidence on today. This reflects a widespread desire that we must respond to the everyday racism experienced by Black students and make plans about how education can be part of that change.

"During Covid, and also afterwards, we've got to think better about what makes students feel connected or unconnected to their learning, positive or not about their future. We've got to talk actively about the deeply entrenched attitudes which underpin racism, within classrooms.

"There are good ideas in the country and excellent existing resources that the Government can harness. Part of the way forward is creating more time within school life for young people to talk about the social issues in local communities, so students can find their voice and develop a sense of agency about their future.”

Catherine McKinnell MP, Chair of the Petitions Committee, said:

“I am pleased that the Petitions Committee is able to hold this joint evidence session with the Women and Equalities Committee and members of the Education Committee on such an important issue. This joint work allows us to delve deeper into issues of concern to petitioners which cut across policy areas.

“In the last few months, petitions calling for greater diversity in the National Curriculum have seen more than 390,000 signatures. Although the Government’s response to one of these petitions states that the curriculum provides teachers with ‘opportunities…to teach about Britain's role in colonisation and the transatlantic slave trade’, many petitioners feel this does not go far enough in ensuring that students experience a fully diverse education all year round.

“I look forward to working with colleagues from other Committees to examine these issues in more detail.”

Caroline Nokes MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee said:

“To tackle racism and create a more equal and just society, we must understand and learn from the past. That starts in schools, with a more inclusive history curriculum. The sheer number of signatures these petitions have received show the strength of feeling on these issues. The Woman and Equalities Committee wants to work with the Petitions Committee and colleagues on the Education Committee to explore this in more detail.”

The evidence sessions will take place virtually and will follow the below timetable:

Thu 5 November (2.30pm)

Panel 1  – Petitioners

  1. Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson and Nell Bevan - Teach Britain's colonial past as part of the UK's compulsory curriculum 
  2. Cynthia Muthoni - Add education on diversity and racism to all school curriculums 
  3. Yacoub Yasin - Making the UK education curriculum more inclusive of BAME history 

Panel 2 

  1. Eleshea Williams – Media and Communications Manager, The Black Curriculum
  2. Dr Katherine Burn - Associate Professor of Education, Department of Education, University of Oxford and Deputy President, Historical Association
  3. Rosamund McNeil - Assistant General Secretary, National Education Union
  4. Professor Rhiannon Turner - Professor, School of Psychology, Queen’s University Belfast (featured in The School that Tried to End Racism)

In response to the petition Teach Britain's colonial past as part of the UK's compulsory curriculum, the Government said: “The history curriculum at Key Stage 3 includes the statutory theme “ideas, political power, industry and empire: Britain 1745-1901”. Topics within statutory themes are chosen by schools and teachers.”

Petition details

  • Teach Britain's colonial past as part of the UK's compulsory curriculum – view on signature map
  • Add education on diversity and racism to all school curriculums – view on signature map
  • Making the UK education curriculum more inclusive of BAME history – view on signature map

The top 10 parliamentary constituencies that supported the petition ‘Teach Britain's colonial past as part of the UK's compulsory curriculum’ are as follows (as at 23 October 2020):

Constituency

MP

Signature Count

Bristol West

Thangam Debbonaire MP

2621

Hackney North and Stoke Newington

Rt Hon Diane Abbott MP

2295

Lewisham, Deptford

Vicky Foxcroft MP

2217

Brighton, Pavilion

Caroline Lucas MP

2130

Hackney South and Shoreditch

Meg Hillier MP

2073

Camberwell and Peckham

Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP

1951

Hornsey and Wood Green

Catherine West MP

1875

Islington North

Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP

1817

Dulwich and West Norwood

Helen Hayes MP

1749

Streatham

Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP

1721

The top 10 parliamentary constituencies that supported the petition ‘Add education on diversity and racism to all school curriculums’ are as follows (as at 23 October 2020):

Constituency

MP

Signature Count

Lewisham, Deptford

Vicky Foxcroft MP

652

Brighton, Pavilion

Caroline Lucas MP

611

Bristol West

Thangam Debbonaire MP

603

Hackney North and Stoke Newington

Rt Hon Diane Abbott MP

565

Hackney South and Shoreditch

Meg Hillier MP

541

Camberwell and Peckham

Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP

539

Dulwich and West Norwood

Helen Hayes MP

499

Hornsey and Wood Green

Catherine West MP

488

Vauxhall

Florence Eshalomi MP

470

Oxford East

Anneliese Dodds MP

468

The top 10 parliamentary constituencies that supported the petition ‘Making the UK education curriculum more inclusive of BAME history’ are as follows (as at XX October 2020):

Constituency

MP

Signature Count

Lewisham, Deptford

Vicky Foxcroft MP

247

Hackney North and Stoke Newington

Rt Hon Diane Abbott MP

244

Bristol West

Thangam Debbonaire MP

207

Hackney South and Shoreditch

Meg Hillier MP

201

Camberwell and Peckham

Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP

186

Hornsey and Wood Green

Catherine West MP

180

Brighton, Pavilion

Caroline Lucas MP

161

Dulwich and West Norwood

Helen Hayes MP

160

Streatham

Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP

157

Vauxhall

Florence Eshalomi MP

156

The Petitions Committee is set up by the House of Commons to look at e-petitions and public (paper) petitions. It can:

  1. Ask for more information in writing—from petitioners, the Government, or other relevant people or organisations
  2. Ask for more information in person—from petitioners, the Government, or other relevant people or organisations. This might be in Parliament or somewhere else in the UK
  3. Write to the Government or another public body to press for action on a petition
  4. Ask another parliamentary committee to look into the topic raised by a petition
  5. Put forward petitions for debate in the House of Commons

The Committee is currently made up of 11 backbench Members of Parliament from Government and Opposition parties. The number of seats each party has is calculated to reflect the membership of the House as a whole.

The Chair of the Committee was elected on 29 January 2020. The members of the Committee are:

  1. Catherine McKinnell (Chair) - Labour
  2. Martyn Day - Scottish National Party
  3. Elliot Colburn - Conservative
  4. Jonathan Gullis - Conservative
  5. Chris Evans - Labour
  6. Katherine Fletcher - Conservative
  7. Nick Fletcher - Conservative
  8. Mike Hill - Labour
  9. Tom Hunt - Conservative
  10. Tonia Antoniazzi - Labour
  11. Theresa Villiers – Conservative

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