Bishop's Stortford and Sawbridgeworth secondary heads vow to stamp out racism in their schools
The head teachers of all seven secondary schools in Bishop's Stortford and Sawbridgeworth have committed to kicking racism out of the classroom and "decolonising" their curriculums.
The Black Lives Matter movement has put the spotlight on education, with current and former Herts and Essex High School students the first to call for action first.
As protests swept across the country, former deputy head girl Jessica Enemokwu, who left in 2017, set up a petition signed by hundreds of BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) pupils and their white peers and lobbied for a meeting with staff.
She said: "Black students' experiences at school are plagued by racist micro-aggressions, misunderstandings and gaslighting by teachers when there are attempts to report racist incidents.
"Racism is deeply embedded in white culture and we have to recognise that sweeping statements such as 'I don't see colour' erase the identity of black students and ignore the societal structures which breed everyday racism."
The summit took place on Thursday June 18. Both parties agreed to come up with an agenda for action.
The initiative has also been taken up by BSET – the Bishop's Stortford Educational Trust – which represents Herts and Essex high as well as Birchwood High School, The Bishop's Stortford High School, Hockerill Anglo-European College, Bishop's Stortford College, St Mary's Catholic School and Leventhorpe School in Sawbridgeworth.
Its current chairman, Dale Reeve of TBSHS, told the Stortford Indie: "The headteachers of BSET schools stand in solidarity with the black community and those fighting racial inequality.
"We recognise that it is our role to provide leadership in this area, and we are all fortunate in having students and alumni who will always challenge us to do more. It is the aim of all schools to work to ensure that all staff and students feel valued and are able to contribute positively in all areas of school life.
"Recent events have brought issues around racial inequality into sharp focus and we are working with our communities and with each other to address systemic racism.
"As educators, we are constantly revising our approaches to teaching and learning in the classroom. We recognise the need to make our teaching more diverse and to decolonise the curriculum. We will also continue to address issues of inequality, injustice and racism across all aspects of our organisations."
Mr Reeve is also working with his students at TBSHS on renaming Rhodes House at the London Road secondary to remove any association with 19th-century colonialist and founder of Rhodesia Cecil Rhodes, who was born in the town.
At Hockerill, head of innovation Shamiela Davids has met with former students.
She said: "This open dialogue has been extremely valuable and has already resulted in the beginnings of a number of important discussions which we aim to develop. The talks with our alumni helped to reaffirm our commitment to the eradication of all forms of discrimination, not least racism.
"As a community, we appreciate that results of change need to be quick and visible, and we are proud of many of the steps we have taken in recent years, but we also recognise the need for any change that we participate in to be sustainable and meaningful."