A London primary school will drop the name of an 18th century slave owner following pressure from hundreds of parents and former pupils in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests.
Last month, as statues of slave-owners were torn down in cities around the world, parents and alumni — including actress Dame Emma Thompson — called for the north London primary to be renamed.
Now the school and Camden Council have together decided the name-change will go ahead, following a consultation with parents and pupils.
In a statement, the council said the decision was made as part of a borough-wide initiative to review names that "may have associations with individuals whose actions have contributed to or directly benefited from oppression".
It read: “Working closely with Camden Council, Beckford Primary School’s Board of Governors have decided to start the process to rename the school in consultation with its school community.
“We have both concluded that a name change is warranted and that the school’s governing body will start consultation with parents and pupils to choose a new name in September."
The school plans to have its new name in place by September 2021. It will begin consultations in September once all pupils are back in the classroom, and students will be given "an opportunity to learn about the history of William Beckford and why he is no longer a suitable candidate for celebration in the school’s name".
In a letter to all parents, school headteacher Sam Drake said school leaders are "excited" that pupils "will play a major role in shaping" the school's future.
The letter read: "Camden have now concluded this part of their review and have decided that our school meets their criteria for a name change. We note and welcome their decision.
"The staff, governors and I would like to thank the school community for their support in this matter so far, and we look forward to working with them again soon to create a new chapter in our school’s history."
Beckford's new name is yet to be decided and will depend upon the outcome of the consultation, but hundreds are already calling for the school to be named in honour of former headteacher Beryl Gilroy, one of London's first black headteachers.
More than 600 people have signed a petition in support of naming the school after the teacher, who led from 1969 to 1982. Ms Gilroy, who died in 2001 aged 76, emigrated to London from Guyana and was later made an honorary fellow by the Institute of Education.
As well as a headteacher, she was a novelist and poet who The Guardian described in an obituary as "one of Britain's most significant post-war Caribbean migrants”.
Petition founder and parent, Steve Hogarth, said renaming the school would "be the perfect way of addressing concerns while also honouring the school's history of inclusion and diversity".
Former Beckford pupil Dame Emma Thompson is among those to have backed the campaign, which also has the full support of Ms Gilroy's family.
Ms Gilroy's daughter, Darla, told the Standard last week: "I have been overwhelmed by the momentum behind the campaign to rename Beckford School and the strength of feeling the issue has engendered."
The school is not the only institution to be changing its name. After the debate was sparked by a statue to prominent slave owner Edward Colston being torn down in Bristol during a Black Lives Matter protest last month, London's City University is to change the name of its prestigious Cass Business School.
The institution had been named after Sir John Cass, a 17th century merchant who was responsible for helping establish the slave trade across the Atlantic.