Students at Pimlico Academy took action on Wednesday against their school's racist policies and are demanding the headmaster resigns, reports Jamal Elaheebocus
Hundreds of students at Pimlico Academy in Westminster staged a sit-in protest outside the school on Wednesday against changes to the curriculum and school rules which discriminate against black and Muslim students in particular.
The school announced that hair which “blocked the view of others” would not be allowed and has used this rule to tell black students that they cannot have an afro hairstyle. Alongside this, students were also banned from wearing hijabs that were “too colourful”. The school’s management have also proposed changes to the history curriculum and put up a Union Jack outside the school.
The protest was organised by students and had the support of many parents as well as staff, who announced a vote of no confidence in the headteacher, Daniel Smith. As a result, 30 members of staff are set to leave at the end of the school year. Students at the protest called for Smith's resignation.
As the protest went on, the school’s leadership outrageously called the police once the protest started.
Students have already boldly taken action against the leadership of the academy; in September they tore down and burnt the Union Jack flag which had been put up at the front of the school.
This protest is a reminder of the racism present throughout the education system. The racist policies put in place at Pimlico Academy are not exceptional but instead are often the norm. Many schools adopt hair and uniform policies which discriminate against BAME students, such as banning afros and limiting how short students can have their hair cut, with some schools excluding students because of this. Exclusion rates for Black Caribbean students are six times higher than rates for white students in some local authorities in England and in many other councils, it is four or five times higher.
The school curriculum, which the students at Pimlico Academy were also protesting against, is also rooted in racism and colonialism. The history curriculum consistently excludes Black history, while often glorifying the atrocities of the World Wars and colonialism. The results of a survey on the history curriculum found that just 37% of current and former students learned about the transatlantic slave trade and less than 8% learnt about the British colonisation of Africa.
The English and Music curriculums are almost completely bereft of Black writers and composers., with Edexcel having recently attempted to scrap the only Black composer on their syllabus, before having to reverse their decision.
There is an irony in this protest happening on the same day that the government released their report on institutional racism in Britain, written by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities.
This report somehow managed to argue, without irony, that Britain is no longer an institutionally racist country and “should be regarded as a model for other white-majority countries”. This conclusion is hardly surprising given the report was written by people chosen by the government because they have voiced their views that Britain is not institutionally racist.
What the protest at Pimlico Academy today showed and what the huge Black Lives Matter protests last summer have shown is that this conclusion could not be further from the truth. The report is an attempt to completely brush the Black Lives Matter movement under the carpet and maintain the structural racism on which British capitalism relies on.
However, it is clear that racism runs through the heart of British society, from education to housing, policing to access to healthcare. Above all this, we know that ethnic minorities have suffered from the pandemic the most, particularly in terms of death rate.
The school has agreed to put in place some of the students’ demands after Easter; whether we are demanding a decolonised curriculum or an end to police violence against black and brown people, this protest is a demonstration of why mobilising against racism is so important.
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