Tens of thousands sign government petition demanding pupils are taught about Britain's colonial past

Joe Gamp
·Contributor, Yahoo News UK
·3-min read
The empty plinth where the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol once stood after it was taken down during a Black Lives Matter protest on Sunday. The protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
Following the Black Lives Matter protests, which has seen monuments of British figures toppled, a wider discussion about Britain’s colonial past is emerging. (PA)

A government petition demanding the UK makes it compulsory to teach children about the UK’s colonial past has been signed by tens of thousands of people.

Following the Black Lives Matter protests across the UK, a wider discussion about Britain’s colonial history is emerging.

It comes following the death of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis which, sparked protests around the world.

As such, a new petition is demanding the government to “Teach Britain's colonial past as part of the UK's compulsory curriculum”.

(Petition.parliament.org)
The petition had gained over 50,000 signatures by Thursday afternoon. (Petition.parliament.org)

By Thursday afternoon the campaign - created by Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson - had gained over 50,000 signatures.

When the petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the government is required to respond. It will then consider debating the issue in Parliament.

A statement on the Parliament petition website reads: “Currently, it is not compulsory for primary or secondary school students to be educated on Britain's role in colonisation, or the transatlantic slave trade.

File photo dated 01/01/1910 of Lieutenant-General Baden-Powell (centre right) inspecting Boy Scouts at New Brompton. A statue of Robert Baden-Powell on Poole Quay in Dorset is due to be removed and placed in "safe storage" following concerns about his actions while in the military and "Nazi sympathies". The action follows a raft of Black Lives Matter protests across the UK, sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
A statue of Robert Baden-Powell (pictured) on Poole Quay in Dorset is due to be removed and placed in "safe storage" following concerns about his actions while in the military. (PA)

“We petition the government to make education on topics such as these compulsory, with the ultimate aim of a far more inclusive curriculum.

“Now, more than ever, we must turn to education and history to guide us. But vital information has been withheld from the people by institutions meant to educate them.

“By educating on the events of the past, we can forge a better future.

Protesters and police gather around Winston Churchill statue in Parliament Square during the Black Lives Matter protest rally in London, Sunday, June 7, 2020, in response to the recent killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, USA, that has led to protests in many countries and across the US. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Protesters and police gather around Winston Churchill statue in Parliament Square during the Black Lives Matter protest rally in London. (AP)

“Colonial powers must own up to their pasts by raising awareness of the forced labour of Black people, past and present mistreatment of BAME people, and most importantly, how this contributes to the unfair systems of power at the foundation of our modern society.”

The petition comes after a statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston was ripped from its plinth and thrown into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter demonstration at the weekend.

A number of other monuments have been targeted, including a statue of Winston Churchill, near parliament, which was graffitied to say he was a racist.

Britain's Education Secretary Gavin Williamson arrives at the Houses of Parliament in central London on June 2, 2020. - British MPs will return to parliament on Tuesday as the virtual system introduced during coronavirus pandemic is ended, with controversial plans to quarantine people entering the country set to be presented. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
A campaign group has written to education secretary Gavin Williamson asking him to review the current school curriculum. (Getty Images)

The Black Curriculum group has also written to education secretary Gavin Williamson and asked him to review the syllabus taught in schools.

Dozens of other petitions have been started across the country, including in Cardiff and Plymouth, to rename streets or remove statues of controversial historical figures.

In the letter to Mr Williamson, the group wrote: "Learning black history should not be a choice but should be mandatory. Our curriculum should not be reinforcing the message that a sizeable part of the British population are not valued."