As we pay tribute to the outstanding contribution of the Windrush generation this week, it’s crucial that we also reflect upon the way in which their legacy is solidified in schools.
This intrinsically relates to the teaching of Black history – pupils cannot acquire a thorough understanding of British history, without learning about the contributions of Black people both within Britain, and from abroad.
The above poses the key question: why doesn’t the Department for Education make Black history lessons mandatory in English schools, as will be the case in Wales?
The government states that the curriculum gives teachers “freedom and flexibility”. However, a survey by the House of Commons Petitions Committee found that 69% of survey respondents ‘strongly disagreed’ or ‘disagreed’ that the curriculum, and the freedom and flexibility it is intended to give teachers, guarantees that children leave primary school with an appropriate understanding of Britain’s diverse history. In addition, 90% of respondents felt there should be a statutory requirement for all children to be taught explicitly about the history of Britain’s ethnic and cultural minorities.
That is why the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Race Equality in Education held an event on ‘Windrush Day: The importance of Diversifying the Curricula” on 22nd June 2021. Speakers included celebrity chef, musician and entrepreneur – Levi Roots, Chair of the APPG for Race Equality in Education – Diane Abbott MP, Vice-Chair of the APPG for Race Equality in Education and founder of Operation Black Vote – Lord Simon Woolley, founder of the Black Curriculum – Lavinya Stennett, and the evening will be hosted by founder of the APPG for Race Equality in Education – L’myah Sherae.
If we are to truly show respect for the Windrush generation, and Black history more broadly, we must consider how Black pupils are faring in our education system today. Black Caribbean pupils have the lowest GCSE Attainment 8 scores on average, are the highest proportion of children eligible for free school meals alongside mixed white and Black Caribbean children, frequently the least likely group to go to university, and are up to 6 times more likely to be excluded from schools in some local authorities than their white peers – and many studies have shown that young people who have previously been excluded either temporarily or permanently from school are more likely to be drawn into crime.
It is difficult to reflect upon the treatment of Caribbean children, and the over-criminalisation of Black youth, without thinking about how this compares to the government’s treatment of the Windrush generation. When will the consistent over-criminalising of Black communities end?
It is clear that this is something many experience right from school age through to adult life. Can we truly commemorate the Windrush generation without demanding that the government does more to end the cycle?
When will the consistent over-criminalising of Black communities end?
The Windrush compensation scheme process must be reformed and made easier for Windrush scandal victims. The Department for Education must do more to ensure that Black history is taught across the curricula. The government must do more to eradicate race disproportionality in school exclusions, and end the over-criminalisation of Black youth.
When thinking about the Windrush generation and their legacy, it is imperative that we reflect upon how Caribbean children and young people are treated in our institutions today. Commemorating the profound impact of the Windrush generation is important, but we must also make an honest reflection about the kind of society we want to build for the next generation, and the generations thereafter.
This content was originally published here.