Black history & cultural diversity in the curriculum: second evidence session

Two Select Committees will hear further evidence on Black history and cultural diversity in the national curriculum after hundreds of thousands signed petitions calling on the government to diversify and decolonise the curriculum.

A joint evidence session will be held by the Petitions Committee and Women and Equalities Select Committee on 18 November following several popular petitions on this issue. Members of other relevant Committees have also been invited to join the session. The committees will take evidence from a range of academics and educational experts including Dr Marlon Moncrieffe of the University of Brighton, Professor Claire Alexander, University of Manchester, Dr Christine Callender, of UCL Institute of Education, and Allana Gay, co-founder of the BAMEed Network.   This session follows the first joint evidence session on 5 November, where the committees heard from petitioners, experts and academics on the need for change.  

A petition calling on the Government to Teach Britain’s colonial past as part of the UK’s compulsory curriculum, which has received more than 268,000 signatures to date, is among those that have led to these sessions.   The petition states: “Currently, it is not compulsory for primary or secondary school students to be educated on Britain’s role in colonisation, or the transatlantic slave trade.  

“We petition the government to make education on topics such as these compulsory, with the ultimate aim of a far more inclusive curriculum.   “Now, more than ever, we must turn to education and history to guide us.”  

Two other petitions, Add education on diversity and racism to all school curriculums and Making the UK education curriculum more inclusive of BAME history, have also received more than 114,500 signatures combined.   Ahead of scheduling a debate on these petitions, the Committee agreed to work jointly with the Women and Equalities Committee to hear oral evidence on the issues that these petitions raise.  

Catherine McKinnell MP, Chair of the Petitions Committee, said:  

“I was so impressed with the breadth and depth of the conversation in our first joint evidence session earlier this month. We heard from several impressive young petition creators during the session who explained to our committees why this issue is so important and the work they believe needs to happen next. “We will build on these important conversations in this next session by talking to academics and experts whose work directly explores themes around diversity in the curriculum, educational attainment and resources and training for teachers. “Working alongside the Women and Equalities Committee gives us a great opportunity to delve deeper into issues of concern to petitioners which cut across policy areas.”    

Caroline Nokes MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee said:

“To understand racism and inequality in 2020, it’s vitally important that we understand Britain’s role in colonisation and the transatlantic slave trade. And that we have real diversity in our national curriculum. The national curriculum provides some opportunities for this – but it’s not clear that this is sufficient.

“We have already heard thought-provoking evidence from people who have created petitions on this subject, and 390,000 petitioners believe we need to do more. Hearing from leading education providers and academic experts will be invaluable in helping us to understand what needs to be done to create a more inclusive curriculum.”

The evidence sessions will take place virtually and will follow the below timetable:  
Thu 18 November (2.30pm)  

Panel 1 (2.30pm)

  • Dr Marlon Moncrieffe, Senior Lecturer, School of Education, University of Brighton
  • Professor Claire Alexander, Professor of Sociology, University of Manchester
  • Lucy Stokes, Principal Economist, National Institute of Economic and Social Research  

Panel 2 (3.30pm)

  • Dr Christine Callender, Associate Professor, UCL Institute of Education
  • Allana Gay, Co-founder, BAMEed Network (and Headteacher, Vita et Pax School (Cockfosters) Ltd)
  • Emily Miller, Head of Learning and Partnerships, Migration Museum
  • Caroline Wright, Director General, British Educational Suppliers Association    

In response to the petition Teach Britain’s colonial past as part of the UK’s compulsory curriculum, the Government said:

“The history curriculum at Key Stage 3 includes the statutory theme “ideas, political power, industry and empire: Britain 1745-1901”. Topics within statutory themes are chosen by schools and teachers.”

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