Alleyn’s Celebrates Black History Month 2021

Student leadership has long been a strong feature of Alleyn’s and it is no surprise that our pupils have taken an active role during Black History Month. In addition to organising a series of events to mark Black history, our Minority Students Union (MSU) – a student-led group dedicated to combating racism – gave an inspiring address to the student body to explain both why BHM is so important and why it is vital to embrace diversity all year round. Their powerful talk presented personal perspectives on why outstanding figures such as Yvonne Conolly remain exciting, inspiring, and relevant; it also highlighted the value of being proud of one’s own identity and the need to create environments in which that pride can be celebrated and respected.

For the remainder of the month -- amongst various talks and assemblies on topics such as the importance of Black history in PSCHE lessons, House assemblies and other forums; film screenings, quizzes and a poster campaign celebrating less well-known inspirational Black figures – discussions will take place about Black Curriculum recommendations in all departments. The MSU extends its memberships to the Lower School with the appointment of a new Lower School Ambassador and the group will work closely with the English Department to review texts for inclusion within our future curriculum.

Equally proactive in the Junior school, Black History Month was introduced with an assembly based around David Olusoga's Black and British book, highlighting the presence of Black people in Britain and Black Britons going back centuries; about Black figures in history such as Emperor Septimus Severus from modern day Libya and John Blanke, a musician in the Tudor court.

Pupils celebrated Black British classical musicians such as Sheku Kanneh-Mason and 18th century composer Charles Ignatious Sancho and across the school, form teachers read books by Black British authors or featuring Black British characters, including Pig Heart Boy by Malorie Blackman, If All the World Were by Joseph Coelho and Coming to England by Floella Benjamin.

Every class in Key Stage 2 has also had a dedicated lesson on Black British History. Year 3 learnt about the contribution of Black Londoners, Year 4 studied World War I while Year 5 looked at Windrush. Year 6 pupils spent time exploring the contribution of African and Asian soldiers in World War 2.

Black History Month forms part of the ongoing conversation on diversity and equality at Alleyn’s which includes work on gender equality and LGBTQ+ rights. In Lent term the school will gather again to celebrate a programme of events during a dedicated Multicultural Week as well as an inaugural Gender Equality Festival. We are proud that our pupils are so motivated in promoting change in our society.

By Liz Thornton, Head of Lower School and Elisabeth Sarr, Humanities Teacher