October is dedicated as Black History Month, and is a time to honour the triumphs and struggles of Black communities over the centuries in shaping the dynamic and diverse country we have today. To support and celebrate this a number of learning opportunities involving assemblies, History and PSHE lessons, an excursion to Bristol and resources on Tooled Up Education were used to engage, inspire and challenge the boys to celebrate diversity and question the past.
At Davenies, we are strongly committed to the personal development of the boys. Themes such as Black History Month in October are extremely important for their social development by ensuring the boys know about its significance to help make sense of the world and, unfortunately, the prejudice, bias, stereotyping and discrimination that can take place within it. This links to our school environment in terms of what we value in being a community of tolerance and inclusiveness.
This in turn helps the boys to enhance their own awareness of any subconscious bias making critical thinking possible – an extremely important transferable skill to their academic learning, as well as personal growth.
The theme for this year was ‘Time for Change: Action, Not Words’. Not only does this celebrate the achievements of important people of African heritage in history, and the continued contributions of Black people around the world; it also encourages continued action in tackling racism and ensuring black history is represented to encourage social cohesion between young people in the UK.
Within History lessons, boys were set the task of enquiry-based learning projects that linked to the schemes of work of which they have been working through since the start of term.
In the Junior School, Year 3 explored the presence of Africans on Ancient Greek pottery using visual sources from The Met Museum in New York within their unit on Ancient Greece. This was reinforced further by the work of boys in Year 4 who have been learning about the Roman Empire. Recent work has allowed them to challenge the misconception that there was not a presence of Africans in Britain at this time, when indeed there actually was. Looking at Africa in the Roman Empire (AD 43), boys researched Septimius Severus as the first Black emperor of Rome (AD 193) as well as looking at the Black Romans who guarded Hadrian’s Wall at this time.
Boys in the Middle School grasped the opportunity to learn about the Empire Windrush (1948) as part of a project about significant historical events. Within this, they questioned its importance by assessing the consequences of immigration and the subsequent decades of race relations in Britain. Additionally, Year 6 have been studying the Normans and will be looking at Norman adventures in Africa in subsequent weeks.
The Common Entrance syllabus studied by Years 7 and 8 focusses on the Tudor Dynasty and eyes were opened when studying visual sources of Henry VII and Henry VIII’s courts to see John Blanke, a royal trumpeter in the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII. He remains the only black Tudor for whom we have an identifiable image. While serving two kings, he bore witness to some of the great moments in England’s history and contributed to some of the greatest spectacles of the Tudor age.
The purpose of this month was about giving boys a snapshot of the wider range of History that exists in Britain. By exploring the experiences of individuals, it has enabled the boys to link them to a wider historical narrative. As such, honouring the contributions made to society by people of Black heritage and their communities; in addition to emphasising the need to come together around a shared common goal to achieve a better world for everyone.
The History Department will be building on recent work for Remembrance next week when boys will be undertaking a number of different projects to celebrate the soldiers of the Commonwealth, as well as looking at the stories of Britain’s black community in the First World War.
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