Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said the ‘sky fell in’ when she criticised the focus on ‘dead white men’ in the national curriculum
The UK’s biggest teaching union has called for the Government to launch a review to “decolonise” the national curriculum in England.
In a speech at the National Education Union’s annual conference, joint general secretary Mary Bousted said that “anyone who dares to challenge the narrow, monocultural base” of the curriculum is attacked by “white men with traditional views”.
Earlier in the week, delegates at the conference in Bournemouth passed a motion calling for “an inclusive curriculum” and criticising government guidance on political impartiality which requires schools to teach the British Empire in a “balanced manner”.
In a speech on Thursday, Dr Bousted said she had been “monstered” in the press in 2018 after saying that the curriculum had to go beyond “dead white men”.
“I said that if a powerful knowledge curriculum means recreating the best that has been thought by dead white men, then I’m not very interested in it,” she said.
“The sky fell in. I was monstered in the right-wing media. There was a Twitter storm with gales of outrage blown down upon me from the usual suspects – white men with traditional views.
“All of which shows me, personally, and us all, politically, that the culture wars rage and continue to rage and that they consume anyone who dares to challenge the narrow, monocultural base on which the current national curriculum, with all its assumptions on powerful knowledge is based.”
She announced that the NEU has formed a partnership with the Runnymede Trust equality think-tank to form an “independent working group” which will “act as a critical interrogation” for a planned review by the Government of the history curriculum.
“We want to ensure that black history, cultures and perspectives have proper recognition in all subjects and all year round,” she said. “And this must centre the perspectives of those who were colonised or their descendants.”
The schools minister Robin Walker has promised to create a new “model history curriculum”, which will equip schools to teach about “migration, cultural change and the contributions made by different communities”.
However, the NEU wants the Government to go further by reviewing the national curriculum in its entirety.
Kevin Courtney, the NEU’s other joint general secretary, said that England should follow the Welsh Government, which has made the teaching of black history mandatory and instructed that all learning areas must reflect the experiences and contributions of black and ethnic minority communities and individuals to Wales.
Mr Courtney said: “We know that Wales has already undertaken a review of the whole curriculum and there is no reason this English Government can’t do that too. And could do it with the profession. And use that review to decolonise the curriculum and take forward other pressing concerns.”