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Why we need to push our EDI curriculum work further

29 April 2024

According to a YouGov survey published in 2023, half of Britons cannot name a Black British historical figure.

The survey was released by Bloomsbury on the publication of Brilliant Black British History by award-winning Nigerian-born author Atinuke. In comments to the Guardian, she called for the government to drive more integration of Black British history in schools and universities and said that “as our world becomes more polarised and divided, increased inclusivity is needed now more than ever. All British history needs to be taught as one history. It’s all our history.”

I couldn’t agree more; most people can name at least one historical white figure. The survey shows a fundamental lack of awareness of the prevalent white supremacy in our culture, and a lack of space in our education to critique it. And yet, Britian has always been a global island, and has always benefited from the labour, genius and resources from across the world. The national curriculum, however, does little to reflect this. It misses rich and contextual examples of our history, and reinforces a lower status for Black people especially, reducing the stories and sizable impacts to a supporting role, or worse, enslavement.

History is not only about the individuals but the context those individuals were in and what was shaped around them. Without knowledge of those people, how can we draw the links between the past and the present, challenge the issues in our society and move beyond surface level celebrations of our histories?

Collectively, we need to step back to restructure what is no longer fit for purpose. Since I set up the Black Curriculum in 2019, we have impacted over 5000 teachers and have broadened access to Black British histories through our podcasts and books, as well as working with many young people directly through our National Ambassador Scheme (NAS), and Springboard workshops.

Our campaigning efforts are important now more than ever, and we all want to see Black British history embedded in the curriculum. Black History Month has become the starting point rather than the landing point for history to be taught accurately. This is across all subjects too, with many of resources being utilised across English, maths and the sciences. To push this work further, we have launched the first ever public consultation on the government’s Model History Curriculum and launched our TBH365 campaign, which stands for To Be Honest 365, and Teach Black History 365. We cannot do one without the other.

Spearheading this work in and out of colleges, schools and nurseries is key for the longevity, and we will have succeeded when we have empowered all young people to have a sense of identity and belonging. We have just launched our Young Champions forum who are developing on TBC’s aims and our creative work in the area too. For us to put any meaningful action in place we all need to agree that not only must Eurocentric thinking end, but rather, when we want it to end. Those are answers and questions we have to seek ourselves, and our actions and perspectives will then shift towards that.

One practical way you can support is by continuing to educate yourself. By broadening out your reading materials and engaging in courses, lessons and field days you can immerse yourself in new topics that will challenge you to confront white supremacy in our education. You can join organisations, and support their missions, and think about the long, rather than short, term change you want to make in your teaching and everyday life. You can identify students to work with who have an underutilised skill and genuinely take an interest in supporting them to take a lead in developing an area of the college's strategy, term work or something simple like an assembly. A little goes a long way, and we all have to try, and commit to this work for the long term, rather than assuming it will be an easy fix.

Lavinya Stennett is a writer, author, and founder and director of The Black Curriculum. You can support the work of The Black Curriculum by supporting the upcoming campaign, pre-ordering Stennett’s book Omitted and tapping into our free resources online, from podcasts to audiobooks available on Youtube, Spotify, and Apple Music.