Primary school changes name due to links to plantation owner

Debate around the school name began following global Black Lives Matter protests last year

Thomas Kingsley
Monday 27 September 2021 13:01
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<p>The North London primary school has officially been renamed</p>

The North London primary school has officially been renamed

A primary school in London has changed its name to cut links to slavery.

The governors of West Hampstead Primary School in Camden, formerly Beckford Primary School, agreed to strip the school of its links to a plantation owner who used thousands of slaves.

In the wake of George Floyd’s death last year which sparked worldwide Black Lives Matter protests, a Town Hall review of council-owned buildings was set up in the borough, opening the door for a vote by parents, teachers and pupils.

Former Tory MP, William Beckford, owned several sugar plantations in Jamaica and also owned thousands of black slaves he inherited from his father in the 18th century. The plantations in the West Indies grossed over £50,000 per year.

The school’s headteacher, Sam Drake, said the Beckford name “did not sit comfortably with our values.”

“We are a diverse and multicultural community and our new name is reflective of that. It doesn’t matter what name we are. Our motto is ‘together we achieve’ – that is the most important. This is a school that welcomes and includes everyone,” Mr Drake said.

Beryl Gilroy, a former headteacher of the school from 1968 to 1982, and one of Britain’s first black headteachers, was also an option on last year’s ballet of new school names.

Oscar winning actress, Emma Thompson was among hundreds who signed a petition for the school to be renamed after Ms Gilroy, in addition to 50 per cent of staff voting in favour of the former head.

Parents and pupils, however, voted for the school to be renamed West Hampstead Primary School.

Instead, a mural in honour of Ms Gilroy will be unveiled at the side of the school in October.

At the school renaming fair last week, mayor of Camden, Sabrina Francis said she was “disappointed” that the school wasn’t renamed after Ms Gilroy but welcomed the school’s efforts to “acknowledge their history” and make changes.

“I am delighted that you are committed to honouring her trailblazing legacy in your classes and that there will be a mural,” Ms Francis said.

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