As Black History Month UK begins, the president of the National Education Union (NEU) is speaking out about the need for Black history to be taught in schools.

Currently, Black history is not a part of the national curriculum, meaning that it is not compulsory to be taught at schools – something that a number of teachers and campaigners have been fighting against for a number of years.

“All young people deserve learning in which they can see themselves represented and reflected properly,” Louise Atkinson, president of the NEU, told The Drop.

Louise Atkinson, NEU president

“The teaching of Black history and Black History Month in schools is so important so that, as a society and in communities, we begin to break down some of the barriers caused by racism.”

Last year Wales became the first UK nation to include the teaching of Black, Asian and minority ethnic histories in their curriculum. But while schools in the rest of the UK have the option to follow suit, few have incorporated Black history into their syllabus.

Recent data collected by The Guardian found that just 11% of GCSE students are studying modules that refer to Black people’s contribution to Britain.

Marcus Ryder MBE, editor of Black British Lives Matter, said: “I sincerely hope that the government recognises that children cannot have a proper understanding of British history if they do not learn about the central role that black people have played.

Marcus Ryder MBE, editor of “British Black Lives Matter”

“From Roman invasions to Anglo Saxon settlements; and from Tudor Britain to the industrial revolution, the history of Britain would be very different without the contribution of black people.” 

Ms Atkinson, who grew up with dual heritage living in North Cumbria, thinks that the racism she experienced as a child was down to a lack of education.

She said: “I don’t think my peers ever meant to be so hurtful, they just didn’t know any better.

“Across the country there are fabulous teachers and support staff doing excellent work on black history month but currently that depends on the students or individual staff or schools having a particular interest in the teaching of black history.  We need to make sure that all children and young people, no matter where they are educated, get the broad and balanced curriculum that they deserve.”

The organisation International Black History Month UK (IBHM-UK) has run many campaigns to teach young people about the history of the African and African Caribbean community in the UK.

Maya Bello-Taylor, the Events Manager for IBHM-UK, said: “Neither my primary or secondary schools celebrated Black History Month UK and I had to learn about UK Black History myself. So I think it’s important that an organisation like this exists to fill the gaps in knowledge that many people  in the UK’s African and African Caribbean community may have about Britain’s black past. 

International Black History Month UK encourages African and Caribbean people to learn together about their shared history and to share this with the wider UK population.

“This month allows us all to reflect and celebrate the individuals that opened the doors to the opportunities that me and the rest of my generation now have. But the battle isn’t over yet.

“I know from some of my friends that BHMUK wasn’t a positive experience at school because of the lack of teaching materials and almost obsessive focus on African American events and personalities. We only focus on UK Black history and I’ve learnt so much whilst working on the BHMUK campaigns. I was surprised to learn about African presence in Roman and Tudor Britain. It’s been really illuminating.”

You can learn more about Black history in the UK here: