Black history should have a more prominent place in the English national curriculum, a Conservative former minister has said.
Tory Theresa Villiers said students must be taught that the presence of black people in history is “not some 20th century novelty” and that black and minority ethnic individuals “have been a crucial part” of the UK’s history for nearly 2,000 years.
Ms Villiers added that “diverse, complex, multi-ethnic Britain” must understand its “diverse, complex, multi-ethnic past”.
Leading an adjournment debate in the Commons, Ms Villiers said: “It’s so important that we celebrate the phenomenally positive contribution of black British people over the centuries and I think that highlighting that in the classroom in the curriculum is incredibly important.
“I would like to see every child in school in this country learning black history. I think it’s an important opportunity to try and take that agenda forward and I will certainly make that appeal to (Schools minister Nick Gibb).
“I think that’s important because I love history and I believe that black history is a fascinating subject to study but I also believe that every child should learn black history in the classroom so that every child growing up in this country knows that the presence of black people here is not some 20th century novelty.
“But most important of all I want more black history to be taught in the classroom because I want children from BAME communities to understand that people of colour have been a crucial part of our island’s story for very nearly 2,000 years.”
She added: “In diverse, complex, multi-ethnic Britain we need far more people to understand that we have a diverse, complex multi-ethnic past.
“It is not possible to understand modern Britain without an understanding of its past.
“So I call on the minister this evening to announce plans to give black history a much more prominent place in the school curriculum.
“I call on him to embrace the enthusiasm we’ve seen on our streets for the study of black history so that we can give future generations a better knowledge and understanding of how we came to be the nation that we are today.”
Responding, Schools minister Nick Gibb said “we must teach about the contributions from Britons of all ethnicities, both men and women, who have made this nation the great nation that it is today”.
He told MPs: “Teachers have freedom over the precise detail so they can teach lessons that are right for their pupils and they should use teaching materials that suit their own pupils’ needs.
“At the same time, the teaching of any history within schools should be consistent with the principles of balance and objectivity.
“And we believe that good teaching in history should always include the contribution of black and minority ethnic people to Britain’s history, as well as the study of different countries and cultures around the world.
“And the history curriculum has the flexibility to give teachers the opportunity to teach about this across the spectrum of themes and eras set out in the curriculum.”
Mr Gibb added that “the exam board Pearson is currently developing a thematic option, a study option on migration in Britain and subject to Ofqual approval, this will also provide more choice to schools”.
Picture: Theresa Villiers. (Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment).