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Black history teaching 'needed' in one of England's whitest counties

By Charley Adams
BBC News

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  • Black History Month
image copyrightBlack Voices Cornwall
image captionBlack Voices Cornwall created a history curriculum for Black History Month

A black history curriculum is needed in one of England's whitest counties, an anti-racism group says.

Black Voices Cornwall has created a school curriculum celebrating black inspirational leaders.

"Because Cornwall is a 98.2% white county, people don't have exposure to black people or to black culture," said the group's education director.

There are more than half a million people in Cornwall, and of those, fewer than 10,000 are non-white.

A head teacher using the curriculum designed for Black History Month said it "has inspired our children".

Education director Helen Hutchinson said schools she previously taught at in Cornwall "didn't really know about black history".

She created the curriculum for everyone "to learn about black inspirational leaders" and to "incorporate" black history into the curriculum.

image copyrightSt Issey Primary School
image captionThe curriculum has helped the children "discover" other cultures, said teacher Louise Roseveare, from St Issey Primary School

A teacher from St Issey Primary School said it was a "challenge" using the curriculum because they were teaching "to children in a very sheltered country school".

The children have "learnt so much about black people in history that they have never even heard of before," said Louise Roseveare.

There is a need for black history in the curriculum, said fellow teacher Hayley Lowry, "particularly in our little Cornish village where there isn't much diversity".

According to official statistics, the south-west region is the least diverse in England and the predominant ethnic group in Cornwall is "White" - amounting to 98.2% of the population.

image copyrightSt Issey Primary School
image caption"Teaching this topic has been challenging but in a great way," said Ms Roseveare

Crowdfunder contacted Black Voices Cornwall, which started in June in response to the Black Lives Matter protests, to support the venture.

Ms Hutchinson said it was "amazing" to have so many supporters through Crowdfunder and felt the public was "saying well done and this is needed".

She said she hoped the curriculum, which is free for all Cornish schools, would travel further than Black History Month.

A "lot of thought" was put into selecting which black inspirational figures would be included in the package, including household names, local figureheads, female representatives and recent inspirational leaders, she said.

The bitesize curriculum, which caters for pupils from five to aged 16, was sent to more than 160 schools in Cornwall, and Ms Hutchinson said a "good proportion" of them had engaged with the material.

image copyrightBlack Voices Cornwall
image captionThe curriculum comes in the form of lesson plans, puppet shows and songs

The activities were "really engaging" and there was "an absolute need" for black history to be included in the curriculum, said the head teacher of Tregolls Primary School in Truro.

Lara Jeffries said the school had always had a diverse approach, but recent movements such as Black Lives Matter "have spurred us on to reflect on our curriculum and develop diversity much further".

A Department for Education spokesperson said the curriculum in schools "offers pupils the opportunity to learn about significant figures from black and ethnic minority backgrounds".

Teachers could include "black history" as a natural part of themes in their teaching - for example, at key stage two pupils should be taught about a non-European society, the DfE said.

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