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NEWS > Alumnae News > Black Lives Matter - Letter from the Head Mistress

Black Lives Matter - Letter from the Head Mistress

Head Mistress Heather Hanbury has written to the entire LEH community to express the school's support of the Black Lives Matter movement in response to enquiries from some of our alumnae.

Dear Friends,
 
Black Lives Matter
 
In recent days, LEH pupils have asked a lot of questions about how we and they should respond to the tragic killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the subsequent demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of people globally in support of racial equality and social justice. I have received emails from a number of LEH alumnae about the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, asking what LEH is doing, or will do, in support. 
 
I am heartened to know that so many LEH pupils, past and present, are deeply engaged and concerned about the plight of others, especially the oppressed and the marginalised. Fostering a concern for others is an important part of the ethos of an LEH education and we all continue to learn what that looks like in practice. And so we are making the following commitment.
 
We state clearly our support of the Black Lives Matter movement and assure the LEH community of our commitment to promoting education and open discussion about racial and social injustice.  With the full support of our Governors, we are committed to:
  • Convening a staff and student Working Group to look at how we address all issues of racism, ignorance and intolerance in our society, including through improvements in our curriculum.
  • Providing diversity and inclusion training, including anti-racism, to all staff and students.
  • Explicitly stating our commitment to anti-racism in our aims and ethos.
We welcome views or suggestions from pupils, alumnae, parents, former parents, current and former staff. If you have points you would like us to consider, please send them to: conversation@lehs.org.uk
(please let us know your connection to LEH when you contact us).
 
In considering how best to approach this much-needed change in our society we will seek to do more of what we do best: educate. We may not be starting from zero, but there is clearly a lot more we must do to provide context and enable a better understanding of the outpouring of anger and grief among so many US, and UK citizens. Being educated and informed is the essential basis to understanding and then acting.
 
At LEH we have already reflected on the colonization of the curriculum and made changes. We amended our KS3 history syllabus quite substantially. We now teach about the British Empire, its growth, and the impact it had (and continues to have) on all the peoples it touched.  We have taught about slavery for several years, including the slave trade and the abolition of slavery, while recognising the scourge of modern slavery – the fight for freedom here is not over.
 
It is also important that we consider how much of our modern, comfortable, privileged lives has been made possible thanks to the historic exploitation and enslavement of people of colour over the centuries, often at the hands of our British ancestors.  On the Battlefields Trip, we now visit graves of Sikh and Muslim soldiers having taught about the role of BAME soldiers in both world wars.  Many thousands laid down their lives in the cause of freedom, while survivors benefited from precious little of it themselves once the war was over.
 
The first step to change is listening. No matter who we are or where we come from, if we genuinely wish to make positive change we must listen to and learn from one another. This is essential in combating racism in our society: listen to other points of view and push back on prejudice in our own social circles, even when it requires awkward conversations.
 
Since the shocking events in Minneapolis, LEH pupils have had a lot to say and I can assure you, we are listening. As a school, we will continue to use the varied ancestry and experience of LEH pupils to enhance our understanding, adding personal context to the important study of the lives of Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic people across many subjects. 
 
In October last year, I ended an assembly with these words – and they are even more relevant today:
 
It is a privilege that at LEH we can all celebrate one another’s differences, respectfully and with growing understanding. From this understanding comes tolerance and respect, and from these we can only hope one day for a loving and peaceful world.
 
I hope that LEH students continue to feel anger at injustice and I hope even more that they never feel helpless or hopeless in the face of it. The road to social justice may be long and hard, there will be many struggles along the way, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep walking.
 
Warmest regards,
 
Heather Hanbury
Head Mistress
 

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