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Heads Answer Alumni's BLM Letter

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Earlier in the week our Headmaster and Headmistress received an open letter from a group of Alumni asking that the School consider its educational provision in the light of the Black Lives Matter protests. This is their response, with the Alumni letter below it.

 

Dear Authors 

We hope you and your families remain safe and well at this challenging time for us all. 

We thank you for your email dated 9 June, and for the open letter attached to that message. We have been impressed and proud at how the School’s Alumni, current pupils, parents and staff have grasped the moment and condemned racism in all its forms, and welcome your participation in this discussion.  

Whilst we share your sense of urgency and have already started to engage current pupils and to think about curriculum reviews, we do want our response to events of the past two weeks to be meaningful and have long-term impact. On Monday, 8 June, we announced our intention to hold a consultation with current students and parents to address this subject. This will commence at the start of the next academic year and will be led by the Headmaster and Headmistress with the oversight of an external organisation experienced in such matters. We intend, as you hope, to collaborate with all our stakeholders to consider how we might improve things in school and also how we might contribute to the critical work which will need to take place nationally. The School’s Alumni have already been invited to contribute to this process by sharing their experiences, in confidence, by emailing BLMConsultation@boltonschool.org, and we would welcome the involvement of you and any signatories to the open letter who wish to engage with this process.  

Although this is not an exhaustive list, we expect the review will explore issues such as how we can further develop consideration of racism and discrimination in the curriculum, developing our pastoral and welfare provision for BAME pupils, looking again at how we might encourage strong applications for employment from the BAME community and providing ongoing training for staff on promoting diversity and the elimination of unconscious bias. Our thinking is clearly aligned with yours on the areas where the School could improve and we shall ensure that all of the points noted in your letter are answered in the consultation.  

The values of diversity and inclusion are integral to the aims of the Foundation and we acknowledge our role in actively dismantling systemic racism and prejudice within society. We believe that this consultation will help us to evaluate where changes are necessary, and, crucially, provide a clear framework and timescale for how its recommendations for change should be implemented. 

We hope that our consultation will be published by the end of September and in order to ensure the widest possible engagement, we will make this message – and future communications relating to the consultation – available on our website. 

Sue Hincks, Headmistress
Philip Britton, Headmaster

 

 

Dear Mr Britton and Miss Hincks,

We are writing to you as students, alumni, parents, and members of the Bolton School Community regarding our education and curriculum. As we are sure the School is aware, the conversation surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement has been brought to a head in recent weeks by the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests across the world. It was positive to see that the School invited alumni to share their experiences of racism at the School and to give recommendations for positive changes upon which the School should reflect. We wholeheartedly support the School in any efforts to combat racial prejudice. However, this is only the first step in what must be a sustained, long-term commitment to anti-racism at Bolton School.

The most fundamental way that the School can take steps to tackle both casual and systemic racism is by implementing changes to the curriculum. The perspectives to which we expose pupils must be inclusive and representative of the diversity that exists in British society, and indeed Bolton School.

On the 1st of June 2020, The Impact of Omission survey was launched, finding that:

  • 86.2 % of school pupils were educated on the Tudors in-depth as part of their curriculum, whereas only
  • 9.3% learned about the role of slavery in British Industrialisation;
  • 72.2% learned about The Great Fire of London, whereas only 7% learned about Britain’s colonisation of Africa
  • 71.5% were taught about the Battle of Hastings, whereas only 5.2% learned about the role of BAME soldiers in WWI and II; and
  • 61.5% of students said that the role of slavery within the British Empire was only briefly mentioned or not at all.

The findings of this survey strongly reflect our experiences at Bolton School. It should not be the case that students have to teach themselves these vital topics. The School website states that it will prepare students “to make their way in the world and make a difference for good”, and learning about the foundations of what upholds much of today’s systemic racism is an integral aspect of this. Bolton School must engage more thoroughly with the history of the British Empire as well as the contemporary reality of race relations in the UK, not just in the US. Indeed, the history of Bolton School is itself tied to colonialism: William Hesketh Lever profited from a Lever soap factory in the Belgian Congo which employed Congolese people into a cruel system of forced labour. By educating younger generations on colonialism, civil rights, and race relations, we give them a fuller view of British history and culture and the resources to build their own opinions.

In order to support changes in curriculum, structural adjustments are also vital. At Bolton School, there is a significant proportion of the student body that is of BAME origin. It is important and pressing that the teaching and support staff are representative of the student body. During our time at the School, there were few BAME teaching staff and very few BAME members on decision-making committees or boards. We are sure Bolton School is aware of the importance of role models in the personal and academic development of young minds. Therefore, we urge change in the form of inclusive and active recruitment of staff in order to widen the Bolton School community and enrich the lives of those reached by its education system.

We urge the School to take the following steps to address this issue and answer our questions as to how this will be carried out.

𝟏. 𝐃𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐢𝐟𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐇𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲 𝐜𝐮𝐫𝐫𝐢𝐜𝐮𝐥𝐮𝐦

We ask that the Key Stage 3 History curriculum be revised to shed light on the British Empire and its consequences. This should include the post-WW2 Windrush generation and modern BAME British history, such as Britain’s Black Power movement.

𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐥𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐨𝐧 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐬 𝐛𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐞𝐧𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐧 𝐚𝐜𝐜𝐮𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝐡𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲?

𝟐. 𝐃𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐢𝐟𝐲 𝐞𝐱𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐞𝐱𝐭𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐚𝐮𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐫𝐬

We request that British BAME writers are introduced to the Key Stage 3 curriculum and recommended reading lists as students would benefit from an expansion to the range of texts taught in these subjects. More books from BAME authors should be available in libraries across the School, with clear and obvious signposting. This would allow pupils to explore the diversity of thought and representation often displayed in these books. Particular books that come to mind are “The Good Immigrant" by Nikesh Shukla and “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge.

𝟑. 𝐄𝐦𝐛𝐞𝐝 𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐢-𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐢𝐬𝐦 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐨 𝐏𝐒𝐇𝐄 𝐜𝐥𝐚𝐬𝐬𝐞𝐬

We request that discussion of racism and discrimination become a compulsory and significant part of the PSHE curriculum. This should be done in a non-tokenistic manner; PSHE classes should allow open discussion of how to identify and fight racism in our daily lives. For example, students should be made aware of issues such as microaggressions, unconscious bias and the gravity of racial slurs. This should include specific teaching and reflection upon the damage inflicted on fellow students by casual racism passed as “banter”.

𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐞𝐝𝐮𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐚𝐥𝐬 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐛𝐞 𝐬𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐜𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐞𝐧𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐞 𝐁𝐀𝐌𝐄 𝐯𝐨𝐢𝐜𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐛𝐞𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐝 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐝𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐥𝐨𝐩𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐦?

𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐥 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐯𝐢𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐪𝐮𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐢-𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐢𝐬𝐦 𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐢𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐟𝐟?

𝟒. 𝐖𝐞𝐥𝐟𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐮𝐩𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐬𝐭𝐮𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬

We request that the School provides more resources and support to its Welfare services, particularly for BAME students. The School should begin a dialogue with BAME pupils about their experiences, taking the time to listen and consider actioning any suggestions they make. We strongly encourage the School to create an anonymous platform for BAME pupils to report incidents and concerns. Furthermore, it is imperative that the School provides all students with the tools required to report any form of racism, overt and hidden. Equally, it is important to equip the staff to intervene in situations of covert racism. This would foster an honest, open environment for everyone. For example, the School’s highly successful bursary campaign supports many of the School’s BAME students and it is vital they feel welcomed.

What are the 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐥'𝐬 𝐜𝐮𝐫𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐮𝐧𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐜𝐢𝐨𝐮𝐬 𝐛𝐢𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐢𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐟𝐟.

𝟓. 𝐃𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐢𝐟𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐫𝐮𝐢𝐭𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐟𝐟 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐢𝐧𝐯𝐢𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐚𝐤𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐥𝐬 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬.

We understand the school runs a guest lecturer program, however, this does not adequately provide a platform for highly successful BAME voices. Bolton School teachers are extremely influential in the lives of the student body. As such it is vital that the staff are representative of the backgrounds and aspirations of the students. All students deserve to have role models that are reflective of their own background.

𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐥'𝐬 𝐜𝐮𝐫𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐠𝐨𝐚𝐥𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐟𝐟 𝐝𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐢𝐭𝐲?

𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐥 𝐩𝐮𝐫𝐬𝐮𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐚𝐧 𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐫𝐮𝐢𝐭𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐩𝐨𝐥𝐢𝐜𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐚𝐠𝐞𝐬 𝐩𝐞𝐨𝐩𝐥𝐞 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐝𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐞 𝐛𝐚𝐜𝐤𝐠𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐥𝐲?

𝟔. 𝐃𝐢𝐬𝐜𝐢𝐩𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐫𝐲 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐜𝐞𝐝𝐮𝐫𝐞𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐢𝐬𝐭 𝐢𝐧𝐜𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬

We request that the School’s disciplinary protocol for incidents of racial discrimination and harassment is reviewed to ensure that necessary action is taken where such incidents arise. We recognise that students may not always understand the wider consequences of their individual actions. Therefore, we ask that this protocol not only commits to punishment but also to extensive education to explain why such behaviour and thoughts are damaging to society at large.

𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐨𝐥'𝐬 𝐜𝐮𝐫𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐭𝐨𝐜𝐨𝐥 𝐭𝐨 𝐝𝐞𝐚𝐥 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬?

We thank you for taking the time to read this letter. We look forward to the opportunity to discuss these issues further and hope you will join us in taking action. We understand Bolton School may consult with independent bodies in order to guide their approach to tackling the issues raised above. We hope that, as one of the leading independent schools in the country, Bolton School can set an example by implementing such changes. Other schools will follow, and we will be taking progressive steps towards deconstructing the racist fabric of our society, beginning with the mindsets of its young members.

We appreciate that these requests are by no means exhaustive of the steps needed to be taken by the School.

𝒀𝒐𝒖𝒓𝒔 𝑺𝒊𝒏𝒄𝒆𝒓𝒆𝒍𝒚,

𝑺𝒊𝒈𝒏𝒆𝒅,

Current and former Bolton School students

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