Mirror: Black historian reflects on tumultuous year in UK schools – and what needs to change


Mirror: Black historian reflects on tumultuous year in UK schools – and what needs to change

Black History Month might be drawing to a close but that does not mean we should turn away from the history books. If we do not learn about and learn from Black history, then we put ourselves at risk, a leading historian has warned.

Black history should be taught in all schools (stock photo) (Image: Getty Images)

“Black history is part of British history and everyone should learn this history to make themselves fully equipped and fully aware of some of the issues around British life,” says Professor Patrick Vernon OBE.

“It is important that everyone learns the history of all communities, so ultimately we can make better decisions in boardrooms, the NHS, local government and national government, otherwise we make bad policies and bad decisions,” he continued.

Yet, in the UK, certain aspects of Black history are taught in some schools more than others, according to the social commentator, campaigner, and cultural historian.

For instance, in Wales, more Black British history will be taught in more schools thanks to a new “comprehensive” curriculum. Wales is the first nation in the UK to make teaching Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic histories and experiences mandatory in the school curriculum.

Many campaigners, teachers, and parents hope the rest will follow suit. However, that is not to say progress is not being made elsewhere .

“People are just getting on with it in their schools, colleges and universities,” said Professor Vernon. He explained that teachers are incorporating Black history into lessons through their interpretation of the existing curriculum, before giving London’s Kingfisher Hall Primary Academy as an example.

“The children in year five [wrote] individual letters to Priti Patel as part of their comprehension exercise around writing, to say can she please change the compensation scheme for the Windrush generation. So that is a good example of how you can use the existing curriculum to include the Black experience,” he said.

Professor Patrick Vernon is a social commentator, campaigner, and cultural historian

The expert also believes school environments must be examined, alongside the lessons taught there.

Reflecting on the controversy surrounding the treatment of Child Q, a schoolgirl who was strip-searched while on her period, Professor Vernon said: “It was about the role of schools, and schools’ leadership and attitudes – and how they perceive Black girls and Black boys.”

“It has caused a major reverberation not just in the black community but across the whole school system,” he added.

For Profession Vernon, the scandal acts as “another example of the process of how young people feel dehumanised and why education is important.”

Fortunately, he says lots of people recognise the significance of this education, and he shared several recommendations for parents, from examining what their children are being taught in school, to encouraging additional learning, perhaps through reading or taking trips to museums and places of historical interest.

Originally posted on The Mirror