Hundreds sign petition to change school curriculum

Saffron Walden County High School

Saffron Walden County High School - Credit: Saffron Photo

In the light of Black Lives Matter protests across the country, more than 700 people have signed a petition to Saffron Walden County High School (SWCHS) to change its curriculum to include topics such as slave trade and colonialism. 

Polly Lankester, associate headteacher at Saffron Walden County High School

Polly Lankester, associate headteacher at Saffron Walden County High School - Credit: Stephen Bond

Poppy Gibbs, a SWCHS alumna who has been studying history, politics and civilisation, has launched a petition to the school to ‘include BAME history in the curriculum’ earlier this month.

She said this would “improve our local community and elevate the lived experiences of BAME young people in Saffron Walden and the surrounding area”, and although the school has been taking steps towards diversity in recent years, “there is always more that could be done”.

“The school’s response to the petition was productive, and we have since met with members of staff. Going forward, the petitioners will be collaborating with the school as anti-hate ambassadors on a number of initiatives which we are very much looking forward to,” Miss Gibbs said.

Polly Lankester, associate headteacher at SWCHS, said the history curriculum is already covering empire and slave trade, and the petition has been updated today to specify that further action needs to be taken.

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Mrs Lankester said that the school has made constant efforts towards encouraging diversity over the years and continues to do so, by collaborating with students, organisations, Saffron Hall and Uttlesford District Council.

Mrs Lankester said students have been studying the Windrush generation “for a long time” and will be studying additional case studies of independence movements and de-colonisation, such as in Kenya and Zambia, and further world history units, for instance Mali.

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“We are always making changes to our curriculum, so we talked to students about all the developments,” said Mrs Lankester, adding:

“It’s about putting more case studies in there, history of people within this country but also around the world.

“The history department is working with an external consultant to look at our history curriculum.

“These are really important issues; we need to make sure we live in a world where prejudice has been challenged and doesn’t happen. These things have always been important and we are keen to continue to improve and develop our curriculum practice.”

Samantha Naik, a Newport Parish Councillor, acknowledged the “passion” of the young people who signed the petition to the school, having told this newspaper last week about a petition she launched to Saffron Walden MP Kemi Badenoch.

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