Newham councillors ‘extremely disappointed’ at primary school’s Black History Month ‘dress as slaves’ letter

PUBLISHED: 17:25 17 October 2017 | UPDATED: 18:27 17 October 2017

Cllrs Seyi Akiwowo and James Beckles

Cllrs Seyi Akiwowo and James Beckles

Seyi Akiwowo/Newham Council

Two of Newham’s councillors have spoken out after a Manor Park primary school sent out a letter asking parents to dress their children as slaves for a Black History Month event.

St Winefride’s Catholic Primary School. Picture: Google St Winefride’s Catholic Primary School. Picture: Google

Cllrs James Beckles and Seyi Akiwowo issued a joint statement in response to the letter, which was sent to parents of a Year 2 class at St Winefride’s Catholic Primary School on Friday.

The Church Road school’s headteacher, Paul Underwood, has issued an apology for the “unauthorised” letter.

In their statement, Cllrs Beckles and Akiwowo said: “It was extremely disappointing and upsetting to read that a primary school in Newham had asked its pupils to come to school dressed as slaves to mark the 30th Anniversary of Black History Month.

“As local black councillors and having grown up in one of the most diverse boroughs in the UK it was surprising that a teacher had not taken the time to research appropriate and effective ways to celebrate Black History Month and educate their pupils.

This letter was sent home to parents asking them to dress their children as slaves. Picture credit: FACEBOOK This letter was sent home to parents asking them to dress their children as slaves. Picture credit: FACEBOOK

“Yes colonialism, slavery and both its impact on future generations and countries is world history - that cannot and should not be forgotten. However, there is so much more to Black History Month than the transatlantic slave trade and this was not the intentions of Akyaaba Addai-Sebo - the founder of UK Black History Month.

“A more rounded approach to the teaching of black history was needed here. Time and time again we see missed opportunities to celebrate black Britons who have achieved and contributed so much, an opportunity to inspire children and make learning history relatable.

“There are several good resources available for teachers, schools and parents to refer to, Paula Perry’s Black British History guide for example. Even a quick search online about Black History Month will yield a large resource of information including notable figures, diverse cultures and histories pre-slavery which should be explored in a place of learning.We understand regretful mistakes are made.

“We hope there’s true learning from this awful situation and next year we see all schools mindful of the significance of Black History Month taking a renewed holistic approach to teaching this to our children.”

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