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Our response to Black Lives Matter

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News - Our response to Black Lives Matter

Tuesday 23 June 2020

Over recent weeks we have all been watching the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement gain momentum here in the UK and more widely in many other countries.  This has prompted many of us to reflect on its messages and to ask ourselves what they mean for us.  This has been happening to a significant extent in schools here in the UK.  We have received a number of approaches, particularly from former students, who have shared their own experiences in relation to ‘Black Lives Matter’.  We are grateful for these hugely constructive contributions and for a number of conversations we have had with individual former students who have been prepared to discuss the issues with us and help us to develop our thinking.  We are also proud that former Bennett students are engaging in the campaign to better our society for all.


We would want to state unequivocally at this point that as a school we are committed to the importance of black lives – they do matter, as, of course, do all lives.  We are also committed to doing everything in our power to ensure that as a school we become a place where all, pupils and employees alike, are valued and welcomed, able to live and work free from any kind of discrimination or prejudice, grow in confidence in who they are, and in pride in their own background and heritage.


As a school we are committed to the equal dignity of all human beings before God.  Our mission is to make that a reality. We are not complacent about the road ahead.  However, it is also helpful that we are building on some foundations as we have consciously developed many aspects of our curriculum and wider provision over recent years.


There are a number of areas we are focussing on to help us to move further forward with greater urgency. 


In the wider debate about the curriculum there has been a focus on the teaching of content relating to empire, colonialism and slavery.  We agree that this is important, and that all pupils should leave the school having achieved a secure and realistic understanding of the history of Britain, and indeed other European states, over the four centuries or so during which they became global powers, and what that meant for those peoples who were exploited, and in some cases slaughtered or enslaved.  We are committed to reviewing our history curriculum to ensure that these topics are thoroughly represented.


Many voices in the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign, and more widely, have noted that there are serious concerns about a curriculum which encounters black and minority ethnic people only or primarily as victims, however well-intentioned this kind of approach might be.  So we think it is important to ensure that there is also good curriculum coverage of the achievements of non-European cultures and civilisations globally, including in parts of the world which were heavily exploited during the centuries of European colonisation. 


There is further work for us to do on building into the curriculum the contributions of people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds both here in the UK and also more widely.  This strand of work may include for example making less invisible the lives of black people in England before the 20th century, the roles of people from around the world in both world wars, and the achievements of black and minority ethnic people in Britain in the arts, literature, science and so on.


The comments above relate only to the taught curriculum.  More widely, there is important work to continue and intensify in teaching mutual tolerance and understanding and ensuring fairness and equality of opportunity among pupils and employees.  These are, of course, legal obligations for us under the Equalities Act 2010 but we know that there is always further work to do in these areas and are committed to continuing to engage in that.


As a school we remain committed to our fundamental belief in the transformative power of education.  A good education not only opens doors and enables its beneficiaries to surmount obstacles, it also empowers and enables them to become both critical and constructive contributors to the building of a better society.  Bigotry and racism are fed by ignorance and poor educational outcomes.  We are unhesitatingly committed to continuing to improve in the quality, diversity and content of the education that we provide.