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Petitions Committee announces joint evidence session on Black history and cultural diversity in the curriculum

3 November 2020

Two Select Committees will hear 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 the Women and Equalities Committee. A member of the Education Committee will also join the session.

The petition Teach Britain's colonial past as part of the UK's compulsory curriculum, which has received more than 267,000 signatures to date, is among those that have led to the session, which will include evidence from Prof Rhiannon Turner from The School That Tried To End Racism documentary and Eleshea Williams of The Black Curriculum campaign group. The Committee will also hear from petitioners at the start of the session.

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 has 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 am pleased that the Petitions Committee is able to hold this joint evidence session with the Women and Equalities Committee and members of the Education Committee on such an important issue. This joint work allows us to delve deeper into issues of concern to petitioners which cut across policy areas.

In the last few months, petitions calling for greater diversity in the National Curriculum have seen more than 390,000 signatures. Although the Government’s response to one of these petitions states that the curriculum provides teachers with ‘opportunities…to teach about Britain's role in colonisation and the transatlantic slave trade’, many petitioners feel this does not go far enough in ensuring that students experience a fully diverse education all year round.

I look forward to working with colleagues from other Committees to examine these issues in more detail."

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

"To tackle racism and create a more equal and just society, we must understand and learn from the past. That starts in schools, with a more inclusive history curriculum. The sheer number of signatures these petitions have received show the strength of feeling on these issues. The Woman and Equalities Committee wants to work with the Petitions Committee and colleagues on the Education Committee to explore this in more detail."

The evidence sessions will take place virtually and will follow the below timetable:

Thursday 5 November

At 2.30pm

Panel 1  – Petitioners

Panel 2 

  • Eleshea Williams – Media and Communications Manager, The Black Curriculum
  • Dr Katharine Burn - Associate Professor of Education, Department of Education, University of Oxford and Deputy President, Historical Association
  • Rosamund McNeil - Assistant General Secretary, National Education Union
  • Professor Rhiannon Turner - Professor, School of Psychology, Queen’s University Belfast (featured in The School that Tried to End Racism)

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."

Further information

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