The national curriculum in England “systematically omits the contribution of black British history in favour of a dominant white, Eurocentric curriculum” which fails to reflect the UK’s multi-ethnic society, according to a new report.
It accuses the current history curriculum of dissociating Britain from a legacy that has oppressed black people in favour of a “romanticised, filtered legacy that positions Britannia as all-conquering and eternally embracive of ethnic and cultural difference”.
It calls for a curriculum that redefines conceptions of Britishness and includes black history “as a body of legitimate knowledge”. It also calls for greater diversity in the history teaching workforce, and concludes: “Teaching Black history not only benefits Black students, but is beneficial to British society as a whole.”
The Black Curriculum report, by Dr Jason Arday of Durham University, is part of a growing campaign in education to get black British history embedded in the national curriculum and taught in schools in England year round, rather than just during Black History Month.
“Widening the scope of black history study can also help society to unravel and unlearn many of the racial stereotypes (and intergenerational trauma) that linger into the present,” the report concludes.
“In broadening the scope for a more inclusive curriculum that encompasses all our histories as British citizens, textbooks must move beyond anecdotal and factually altered accounts of black history within the British context, one that traditionally centres a dominant Eurocentric canon.”
Beyond changes to the history curriculum, the report suggests a number of “quick fixes” to make classroom studies more inclusive. It says students in English classes should be provided with more poetry, fiction, and nonfiction texts written by black authors.
The works of Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and William Shakespeare should be read alongside Langston Hughes, Malorie Blackman, Candice Carty-Williams, Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison. In mathematics and science, teachers should include black scientists and mathematicians in their lessons, as well as the study of maths in sub-Saharan Africa.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The knowledge-rich curriculum in our schools already offers pupils the opportunity to study significant figures from black and ethnic minority backgrounds and the contributions they have made to the nation, as well as helping them understand our shared history with countries from across the world.”
Meanwhile, a retired primary school headteacher is raising money to send copies of 100 Great Black Britons to every school across the UK. The book by Patrick Vernon and Dr Angelina Osborne celebrates the achievements of black people in Britain.
Yvonne Davis has already sent copies to 600 schools. She said: “I am motivated for all children to have access to a copy to create cultural esteem, develop a sense of belonging, a dialogue of questions and answers between peers. The life stories portray the racism and prejudice each one has had to face but with resilience and determination they have succeeded.”