History KS2: Alison Bennison - Working as a NHS nurse

This short film tells the story of Alison Bennison's journey to Britain from Barbados in 1960, to train as a nurse work for the National Health Service (NHS). The story is told by Alison's granddaughter, Lindsey, and nine-year-old Dontay.

Lindsey describes how her grandmother moved to Britain from Barbados in 1960 to train and become a nurse working for the NHS, which began on 5 July 1948.

Before the interview begins, Dontay explains that many people emigrated from the Caribbean to Britain between 1948 and 1973 to answer job advertisements for people needed to restart Britain’s economy after World War Two.

Alison Bennison was only 19 years old when she made the long journey to Britain. We meet her and her granddaughter 60 years later as they reflect back on her life in Britain and its many achievements.

This short film is from the BBC Teach series, Black British Stories.

Teacher Notes

Before watching the film

You may want to discuss The Windrush Generation and why many people came over to Britain from the Caribbean Islands between 1948 and the 1970s. Explain that some people came over as Britain was looking to rebuild its economy and needed people to fill particular jobs.

You may also wish to explain the Windrush scandal, which broke in April 2018, and saw the UK government apologise for deportation threats made to Commonwealth citizens' children. Despite living and working in the UK for decades, many were told they were there illegally because of a lack of official paperwork.

Please note, pupils and their parents may be descendants of the Windrush Generation and may have been affected by the Windrush scandal. Preparation for pupils with these lived experiences should be considered.

You could locate Barbados and other Carribbean islands on a map and discuss what it would have been like to move from that part of the world to Britain as a teenager on your own.

You may want to look at the NHS and discuss what healthcare was like before it began in 1948. Explain that people were expected to pay for any medical treatment, which caused a huge problem for people who were not able to afford it.

Please note that this short film touches on the theme of migration and settlement in the UK, as well as interracial marriage, and pupils may ask questions about these themes. As part of your preparation, you may find it helpful to consider how to manage discussion of topics such as identity, heritage, interracial relationships and skin tone with the pupils in your class. You should also consider carefully what systems your schools has in place should discriminatory language occur in the classroom, school, or wider community.

Questions to consider

Depending on the focus of your lesson, you may wish to pause this short film at certain points to check for understanding, asking questions such as:

  • Why do you think there was a shortage of people to do jobs in post-war Britain?
  • What do you think it felt like to be on the first boat (HMT Empire Windrush) arriving in Tilbury docks in Essex on 22 June 1948?
  • How do you think it felt for Alison to step foot in England for the first time having left her family and friends in Barbados?
  • What values do you think Alison needed to show to gain her qualifications over ten years whilst looking after two young children?
  • What do you think Lindsey means by nursing being “more than a job” to Alison?
  • What do you think Lindsey means by it “coming a full circle”?

Activities to further explore learning

  • The Windrush Generation Challenge pupils to research the WIndrush Generation and why the people who immigrated to Britain between 1948 and 1973 from the Caribbean are called that. This could then lead the pupils onto researching the Windrush scandal in 2018. Pupils could then write posters that may have been advertising the jobs in Britain in the Caribbean Islands. Alternatively, they could write information pages based on their findings. Schools may also wish to invite members of the Windrush community or local West Indian Association to come in to share their stories.

  • The NHS Pupils can also research the birth of the NHS in 1948. They could link this to the Poor Law of Victorian times and the changes that have taken place since it began. Pupils could create a comparison grid of what healthcare was like before the National Health Service and what it is like now.

  • Life as a nurse Invite a nurse in to speak to the children about what it is like working for the NHS today. Pupils could devise questions prior to the interview. They could also find out what qualifications they would need to be a nurse or a doctor today.

  • Letters home Alison left her friends and family in Barbados in the Caribbean and travelled over 4,000 miles to Blackpool, UK. Challenge pupils to think about what life would have been like for Alison and what she may have missed about Barbados. Pupils could write a letter home to her Aunt Lille in role as a young Alison.

  • Write a thank you letter The NHS has done a great deal to help people across the county. If it wasn’t for people like Alison, the NHS would not be able to look after us. Challenge pupils to write a thank you letter to the nurses at their local hospital.

Key Vocabulary

  • Community - A group of people living in a particular area.
  • Culture - A pattern of behaviour shared by a society, or group of people.
  • Discrimination - The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people.
  • Diversity - Differences in racial and ethnic, socioeconomic, geographic, and academic backgrounds.
  • Emigrate - To move out of a country into a foreign one to live permanently.
  • Immigrant - A person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence.
  • Immigration - The process of moving to a new country, with plans to live there permanently.
  • Prejudice - A preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.
  • Racism - The belief that people of different races or ethnic groups have different value in society, and using this against them.
  • Visual Minority Ethnic (VME) - A person who is visibly identifiable as from a minority group.
  • Windrush Generation - People arriving in the UK between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries.

Curriculum Notes

This short film is suitable for teaching KS2 / 2nd level pupils and links to various areas of the curriculum including history (black history) and personal, social and relationships education (community, aspiration, work and career).

Care in the community
It raises questions about the different roles people have in a community and how a community can come together to care for each other.

It opens up questions about following passions and opening up possibilities for future careers.

Taking risks
Alison was extremely brave to uproot her life at such a young age. This film raises questions about when is it important to take risks in your life.

More from Black British Stories

Mac Williams - Working in the coal mining industry
Christina Shingler - Becoming an author of children's literature
David Mwanaka - Becoming a farmer in Britain
Dennis Morris - Becoming a photographer
Elsie Owusu - Becoming an architect in Britain
Eunice Olumide - Breaking into the fashion business
Magid Magid - Becoming the youngest ever Lord Mayor of Sheffield
Vernon Samuels - The Bristol Bus Boycott of 1963
Yesha Townsend - A Bermudian poet in London