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Black Lives Matter – An Update on the School’s Response

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In June 2020, in the wake of the global discussion sparked by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, a group of Alumni and other members of the School community wrote an open letter to the Headmaster and Headmistress urging the School to review and improve its practices and make a sustained commitment to anti-racism. 

Since that letter was received, a number of positive actions pursuant to that aim have now been instigated, including:  

  • A potential lead advisor for the School’s planned consultation on the issues of diversity and inclusion across the Foundation has been sourced, as have promising contacts for staff training in related matters. Girls’ Division Senior School staff had the first tranche of this training during their recent INSET sessions, on the subject of Diversity and Unconscious Bias, which was very well received and has led to numerous avenues for further exploration;

  • Both Divisions have reviewed their PSHE curriculum, in order to ensure that they meet fully the Independent Schools’ Inspectorate’s regulations on matters of diversity and inclusion;

  • In the Girls’ Division, a curriculum audit was completed during the Summer Term outlining areas which embraced issues designed to bring BIPOC, BIWOC and BAME identities to the forefront of girls’ consciousness. This audit was subsequently analysed and discussed by the Girls’ Division’s SMT and Heads of Department, who noted the following positive changes and areas for improvement:
    • Year 10’s development of a PSHEE session for use across the School;
    • Changes in the History curriculum which have led to a greater emphasis on diversity;
    • Changes in the English examination specifications which have led to reduced emphasis on diversity in exam years;
    • Dominance of white males in Science specifications;
    • Necessity to ensure increased diversity of speakers invited to attend enrichment or careers events.

  • In the Boys’ Division, Heads of Department have embarked on a full curriculum review intended for completion by the end of the Autumn Term. Some immediate changes have already been actioned, including:
    • The repurposing of a Year 8 ‘Language in the Media’ unit of teaching to be focused on the BLM movement, racial diversity and inclusion;
    • A change to a Year 12 option choice in English in order to explicitly focus on those same issues;
    • A Year 9 History module will now focus on American politics from the era of slavery;
    • The Geography department will teach boys about Lord Leverhulme’s activities in the Congo alongside their learning about his work at Port Sunlight.

  • Topics of racism, representation and inclusion also remain at the forefront of the pastoral agenda:
    • Returning to the topics discussed in his assembly addressing the Black Lives Matter movement in the Summer Term (which you can watch in two parts here and here), in his recent virtual assembly marking Lord Leverhulme’s birthday, the Headmaster compared and contrasted Lever’s interventions in the Congo, the Hebrides and the Wirral, at Port Sunlight. You can read more about the assembly, entitled ‘How to Make a Difference for Good’, here;
    • In his ‘Thought for the Day’ in a recent virtual assembly (which you can watch here), the Boys’ Division Vice-Captain told boys about Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1862, which outlawed slavery in the US;
    • An exhibition of facsimile photographs from the highly regarded exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, The Missing Chapter, will be displayed in the Boys’ Division to mark Black History Month. The exhibition highlights the lives and experiences of African, Caribbean and South Asian people in the UK during Victorian and Edwardian times, linking well with the historical origins of the current Foundation.

As noted in the Headmaster and Headmistress’ response to the open letter, the School is determined that its response to the issues raised by the BLM movement should be meaningful and have a long-term impact on the culture of the School. Whilst much positive change has already taken place, there clearly remains further work to be done, not least the School’s consultation on issues of diversity and inclusion. 

The commencement of this Foundation-wide consultation has been regrettably but unavoidably delayed by the significant resource and planning which has been required to ensure the School was able to reopen to pupils in a Covid-secure manner in time for the start of the new academic year. 

Despite this delay, the Foundation’s commitment to improving its approach to diversity and inclusivity remains absolute.  We continue to welcome the contribution of Alumni, pupils, parents and all other members of the School community in this work and would again encourage anyone who wishes to engage with this process to share their experiences, in confidence, by emailing BLMConsultation@boltonschool.org

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