A private girls’ boarding school has rewritten its history syllabus in order to challenge the ‘white western narrative’ following the Black Lives Matter movement.
Roedean School, near Brighton in East Sussex, it set to move history classes away from Britain’s ‘island story’ and instead teach students about world events in a wider context.
Pupils aged 11 to 14 will learn about black Tudors and Queen Victoria’s goddaughter Sara Forbes Bonetta, a west African princess who was enslaved before being rescued and brought to England, the Times reported.
They will study the Second World War from a global perspective, considering the impact of the event – which involved the vast majority of the world’s countries – elsewhere.
Students from Year 7 to Year 9 will also be taught about the Song dynasty – which ruled China between 960 and 1279 – alongside the Islamic Empire.
Roedean School (pictured), near Brighton in East Sussex, it set to move history classes away from Britain’s ‘island story’ and instead teach students about world events in a wider context
Other subjects in the ‘decolonised’ syllabus will include the slave trade in Brighton and the life of traveller Sake Dean Mahomed, who introduced Indian cuisine to Europe.
Headmaster Oliver Blond said: ‘We wanted to challenge the predominantly western European narrative and to look beyond the limitations of Britain’s “island story”, to discover hidden histories both nationally and internationally.
‘The question was raised as to whether everyone in the Roedean community saw themselves in the history they study at school and to this end more diverse perspectives have been incorporated within the existing programme, in order to challenge preconceptions and stimulate debate.’
Then-Education Secretary Michael Gove said in 2010 that schools should focus their history syllabus on Britain’s ‘island story,’ adding: ‘This trashing of our past has to stop.’
Students laugh as they celebrate their A Level results from Roedean School in Brighton in 2019
Pupils at the school aged 11 to 14 will learn about Queen Victoria’s goddaughter Sara Forbes Bonetta (pictured), a west African princess who was enslaved before being rescued and brought to England
However, there has been a recent drive to ‘decolonise’ the curriculum in the UK following the Black Lives Matter movement, which was sparked following the death of unarmed black man George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.
At Roedean, which was founded in 1885 and charges up to £22,000 per year, pupils taking GCSE and A-level examinations will continue to take ‘more conventional’ history classes.
Head of History Sarah Black said: ‘While we have been keen to add new units of study, we have also been mindful not to take a tokenistic approach and have wanted rather to integrate new perspectives from a more diverse range of groups … to challenge preconceptions and stimulate debate.’
It comes after the headmaster of Eton College promised to ‘decolonise’ the curriculum and diversify his staff after an appeal from students and parents in June.
It comes after the headmaster of Eton College (pictured) promised to ‘decolonise’ the curriculum and diversify his staff after an appeal from students and parents in June
Tony Blair’s former school of Fettes College in Edinburgh, pictured above, said it would use the moment as ‘a catalyst for real change, and we are working with staff to produce an action plan’
Simon Henderson said he would ensure pupils at the prestigious school ‘understand the historic roots of racism and, even more importantly, how it continues in the world today.’
He made the pledge in response to a letter signed by 635 students and parents, which considered the issues of ‘race and inequality’ raised after the death of unarmed black man Mr Floyd.
The letter said it was ‘imperative’ that Eton teaches a curriculum which ‘attempts to address and reveal systemic racism within society.’
It added that British colonialism and race relations ‘is a subject that needs to be given more precedence in the syllabus, instead of being ignored or briefly touched upon.’
Top independent schools such as Winchester, Fettes, Ampleforth and St Paul’s Girls are also said to be ‘formulating new approaches’ to teaching about Britain’s colonial past.
Gavin Williamson (pictured) previously indicated he would be ‘incredibly interested’ in making sure the country’s history curriculum is ‘reflective’ of Britain’s diverse population
‘We have initiated a review into the school’s culture and practices, and it is our intention that this review will conclude next term,’ Winchester College said in June.
‘A major focus will be our curriculum and our desire to teach beyond the traditional syllabus by applying a global perspective and a broader range of source material,’ it added.
Tony Blair’s former school of Fettes College in Edinburgh said it would use the moment as ‘a catalyst for real change, and we are working with staff to produce an action plan’.
Last month, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson indicated he would be ‘incredibly interested’ in making sure the country’s history curriculum is ‘reflective’ of Britain’s diverse population.
He told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘It is really important that the history taught in schools looks at the rich diversity and tapestry that has made our nation so great, and the important role that people from all backgrounds have played in our history.’
The Education Secretary said we should be ‘very proud of our history,’ adding: ‘I would always want schools to be celebrating our great nation’s history and the important role that we have played in the world and shaping the world for the better.’
Mr Williamson explained this means ‘making sure we are always very reflective of diversity and of all those people who have made an important role in making the history of our nation.’