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Has Black History Month had its day?

This year’s Black History Month is some way off, but this is the time to debate its future. Is learning about black history too concentrated on BHM? When will black history become British history? To some, it’s a ‘tick box’ exercise that garners fleeting support and is then quickly forgotten. A teacher survey by PlanBee revealed considerable discontent with BHM in its current form

Did your school take part in Black History Month?

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“We don’t do black history month. Instead we’ve implemented a more diverse approach to the curriculum all year round”
“As a community we don’t feel that Black history should be confined to one month, so we try to include it in all our history topics. For this reason we called it Cultural Appreciation Month…”

What did you do for BHM?

With no real guidance on what schools are required to do for BHM, schools are often left to think of their own ways to educate children about those of diverse ethnicities who have impacted our lives

“We invited a local musician who was born in the Caribbean to give a workshop on calypso music and the children chose to write songs either about discrimination or celebrating black history, culture and achievements. Another speaker was invited from Brent archives to talk to the children about black history and give a drama workshop.”

“We learned about what life was like for black people in the past and talked about themes of fairness, equality and respect. We learned about Rosa Parks and how she was brave. We talked about racism and how it’s still a problem today.”
As positive as these responses were, there was still some concern over Black History Month being a ‘tick box’ exercise.

“We had one morning where we looked at notable figures but they were all American and it felt like a box ticking exercise”

Forms response chart. Question title: Black History Month is too often a ‘tick box’ exercise.. Number of responses: 238 responses.
On a scale where 1=disagree and 5= strongly agree, the majority of teachers were either unsure of their thoughts regarding BHM as a tick box exercise, or were leaning towards agreeing with the statement.

However, in response to asking teachers whether they believe BHM had a valuable impact on their children, almost half of respondents agreed that it was.

Forms response chart. Question title: Black History Month has a valuable impact on your children.. Number of responses: 238 responses.

How did your children respond to BHM?

Responses to this question were mostly positive, with many saying that children responded well and were interested in learning about Black History and significant individuals.

“They were full of enthusiasm and enjoyed celebrating people’s accomplishments. They were also passionate about discussing injustice and discrimination and could relate things that happened in the past to attitudes today.”

“Children are enthused and interested in finding out about ‘real’ History. Black History is very relevant to the pupils at our school and it is important their heritage is acknowledged.”

“They really enjoyed it and it really opened their eyes to some of the issues that minority groups face.”

“They were very respectful about black history and were able to articulate the injustice and how there are still problems today that need to be addressed.”
However some responses showed a possible lack of understanding for why teaching Black History is important, with some commenting that their schools did not take part at all.
“We didn’t do black history month😔”
“About a fifth of the school contributed”
“Didn’t have any relevance as far as they were concerned as most do not know anyone from a different ethnic background. But the majority did agree people shouldn’t be treated differently because of the colour of their skin.”
“Some were very keen while others were unsure what they should and shouldn’t do.”
Is there enough representation of black history in the National Curriculum?

Wales leads the way by introducing mandatory black history as part of their curriculum; will the curriculums of the other nations of the UK follow suit?
Forms response chart. Question title: Do you believe there is enough representation of black history in the national curriculum?. Number of responses: 238 responses.
Around 63% of teachers we asked strongly agreed that black history should be taught all year round, and not just in the month of October.
Forms response chart. Question title: There should be more focus on black history all year round rather than one month a year.. Number of responses: 238 responses.
What would teachers like to see added to the curriculum?
We asked our sample of teachers what they would like to see added to the National Curriculum.

Black female roles in STEM
A research element whereby every child has to complete a project about a black historical figure
Existing topics looked at through a black history perspective – for example, a case study of a black soldier in the Second World War
Children should be taught about the good and bad of British history; too often pupils are taught the basics with little to no background on the racism and marginalisation
That black history doesn’t begin with slavery
More specific objectives and guidance about how best to deliver this area of learning
A more diverse study of black history throughout KS1 and KS2: the curriculum seems focused on white males
More representation of all races and cultures right across the curriculum. Also address the imbalance in relation to women’s and LBGTQ+ history

With over 83% of our sample agreeing that there should be more of a focus on black history all year round, one way schools can begin tackling this is by having a staff member who is responsible for ensuring black history is woven throughout their school curriculum, in the same way as other subject co-ordinators.

As one of our respondents commented:
“Black history should just be a ‘normal’ part of the curriculum without needing an added focus. It should be a much more even representative of white and black culture. That said, it’s hard to find resources supporting the teaching of black artists / composers etc”