Students and alumni urge Upminster school to call for ‘anti-racist’ curriculum reform

Alex Defroand, who delivered the letter signed by 650 current and former students to Coopers' Compan

Alex Defroand, who delivered the letter signed by 650 current and former students to Coopers' Company and Coborn School. Picture: Alex Defroand - Credit: Alex Defroand

Hundreds of current and former students of an Upminster school have called on its bosses to push for “anti-racist” curriculum reform.

Around 650 people have signed an open letter to Coopers’ Company and Coborn School, and set out a list of actions they want it to take.

These include advocating teaching on colonialism and slavery to be a compulsory part of the national curriculum, as well as increasing the representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) voices across all subjects.

The letter says: “We believe it is vital that young people are taught a full and honest portrayal of British history and fully understand the vital contributions BAME people have made to our society, politics and culture.

“A diversified and decolonised education will help equip students to confidently discuss race and race relations amongst their peers and become strong advocates for anti-racism in wider society.”

Alex Defroand, the school’s former head boy, is leading the campaign and delivered the letter to the school.

The Hornchurch resident argued that the current nationwide curriculum is not teaching students about the “realities” of the British Empire.

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He said: “Young people across the UK are not being equipped with the tools to understand why racism continues to persist in this country.

“Hundreds of current and former students believe high-profile schools like Coopers’ have a responsibility to use their platform to drive change nationally.

“Through taking the concrete steps outlined in the letter, Coopers’ can become a national leader in anti-racist education.”

The campaign follows a number of protests made in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

In a statement, the school said it has met with Alex to discuss the issues and will review the letter.

It adds: “The Coopers’ Company and Coborn School takes diversity and inclusion extremely seriously.

“Coopers Coborn is already committed to sustaining a positive and supportive environment where individuals are equally valued and respected.

“We proactively appointed a diversity coordinator in September 2018 and a number of new initiatives have been implemented since then to reflect our commitment.

“Our immediate focus, during this extremely challenging time, has to be on our strategy for reopening the school in the coming days, supporting students and keeping everyone safe.”