One of the most significant educational problems relating to gaps in the curriculum is the lack of representation of black and minority ethnic groups, and their histories and achievements within the UK. This is commonly referred to as the colonisation of the curriculum.

I believe that “decolonising the curriculum” goes beyond simply adding black and non-western authors to reading lists, or holding the occasional event. Proper reform should involve consultation with our BAME residents about what they think proper representation should look like. This involves learning from their experiences in the education system, both past and current, and adapting accordingly.

Black and minority ethnic children often experience feelings of a lack of belonging which can be reinforced in school and other educational settings.  For me this was first realised when learning about the Tudors in primary school. I was one of a few black children in my class and I remember the teacher said as we sat on the carpet: “this is our history” before she looked at me directly, and quite plainly said: “not yours.”

She may not have meant it maliciously, but to me it showed what I already felt, that I didn’t belong.  I am sure most Black and Minority Ethnic people can identify with this experience and have their own similar stories. A recent UK study showed that nearly 90% of respondents remembered being taught about the Tudors, however less than 8% recalled being taught anything concerning the British colonisation of Africa. [1]

There is a very real benefit to teaching Black and Ethnic minority history not just for BAME students but for white students too.  It is important to learn about the achievements of people from a BAME background as it is not only important for children to have people they can identify with, look up to and be proud of, but for white students to learn and understand the world outside of them, and see that racism is a learned and negative mind-set.

This is why I brought a motion to Lewisham Labour Group on 16 November 2020, calling on the Government to urgently review as a matter of priority the current curriculum, ensuring that Black and Minority Ethnic history is taught across the themes of the history curriculum, teaching about Black civil rights history and reflecting the contribution of Black people across the ages, both here in the UK and more widely. I’m pleased to say this motion was adopted unanimously, and will go to Full Council on 23 November 2020.

I believe black history should be part of the curriculum to help Black and Ethnic minority children feel like they belong, are accepted and are no longer considered an ‘other’.

Kim Powell is a Labour Councillor for Whitefoot Ward, Lewisham


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