Bristol school named after Edward Colston votes to change name


A school named after slave trader Edward Colston will change its name following a consultation involving staff and students.   

Colston’s Girls’ School (CGS) in Bristol was established in 1891, 170 years after the death of Colston and was built with money he had endowed to support education.

The school’s name and association with Colston had been the subject of renewed public debate after a statue of the 17th century merchant was toppled during a Black Lives Matter protest in June.

Staff and students at Colston’s Girls’ School in Bristol (pictured) have voted to change its name following a consultation

A consultation was launched, including an online public survey and series of lessons and debates in school, with 81% of students and staff voting on whether the name should be kept or changed.

Gail Bragg, chair of trustees for Venturers Trust, said: ‘The Board of Venturers Trust has unanimously agreed to change the name of CGS, following a very clear result from the school community vote.

‘I’m incredibly proud of our students who have shown maturity and sensitivity in developing and delivering the consultation.

‘The broad spectrum of feedback from within the school and from the online survey, make it very clear that there are strong feelings on both sides of the debate.

‘For some people this announcement will be disappointing and for others it will be cause for celebration and it’s important that we acknowledge that.

‘We will not be erasing the history of CGS, it is a part of Bristol’s story which is now an integral and permanent part of the curriculum.

The statue of the controversial 17th century slave trader was pulled down and dumped in the city's harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest in June

The statue of the controversial 17th century slave trader was pulled down and dumped in the city’s harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest in June

‘However, the school will be forging a new identity that represents its diverse and inclusive community and this is the momentous beginning of a new chapter.’

An online survey was open to the public between July 17 and August 14.

It received 454 responses, with 63% of respondents voting against changing the school’s name.

Students gathered further opinions from across the city, including from interviews with leading Bristol figures, to help stimulate discussion and debate within a series of lessons, the trust said.

Academic and historian Professor Madge Dresser advised students how to facilitate a balanced debate process, it added.

Current students and staff voted in a final poll, with 75% in favour of changing the name.

The statue of Edward Colston falls down as protesters pull it down, following the death of George Floyd who died in police custody in Minneapolis, in Bristol

The statue of Edward Colston falls down as protesters pull it down, following the death of George Floyd who died in police custody in Minneapolis, in Bristol

Kerry McCullagh, principal of CGS, said: ‘Students have learnt so much about the democratic process and have expanded their own opinions by talking and listening to such a wide range of people.

‘I am particularly impressed by the way in which all opinions were genuinely welcomed so that those who expressed a desire to keep the school’s name were able to do so without worrying that others might judge them.

‘The entire process has been positive and perfectly illustrates the inspiring qualities of our compelling students.

‘These are difficult conversations with strong views on both sides and the classroom has provided a safe space in which to explore complex issues.

‘Students were encouraged to seek and understand the views of others and not just to make themselves heard, which is a really valuable life skill.’

Pupils will now develop a list of potential names for the school, using feedback gathered during the consultation process.

Police launched an investigation after the statue of the controversial slave trader was pulled down and dumped in the city's harbour on June 7 and fined six men £100

Police launched an investigation after the statue of the controversial slave trader was pulled down and dumped in the city’s harbour on June 7 and fined six men £100

The new name for the school, which has 940 students, is expected to be announced by the end of October.

A report including feedback from the online survey will be published on the school website when the process has concluded.  

The bronze memorial was pulled down on June 7 and dumped in Bristol Harbour. It was later recovered by Bristol City Council. 

Six men have each been fined £100 for toppling the Edward Colston statue during a Black Lives Matter protest.

The group all accepted a ‘conditional caution’, which means they receive a criminal record but avoid prosecution in the courts and any further punishment.

They now have six months to follow the conditions of their caution, including answering a questionnaire from a local history commission.

Last month, Avon and Somerset Police said it had asked prosecutors to consider charges against four people over the toppling of the Colston statue.   

Detectives said they would approach the Crown Prosecution Service for a charging decision against three men aged 32, 25 and 21, and a 29-year-old woman. 

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