Headteacher of Queen Elizabeth's Girls' School, in High Barnet, apologises to human rights group Ligali for 'racist and inappropriate' slave trade history lessons

Times Series: Pan African human rights organisation Ligali complained to Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School over its use of a controversial Powerpoint presentation Pan African human rights organisation Ligali complained to Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School over its use of a controversial Powerpoint presentation

A headteacher has apologised for “racist and wholly inappropriate” teaching materials used in history lessons on the slave trade.

Pan-African human rights organisation Ligali complained to Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School, in High Barnet, over its use of a controversial Powerpoint presentation after a parent exposed the issue.

The slideshow, seen by the Times Series, dictates a classroom exercise in which pupils aged 13 and 14 are encouraged to carry out their own “slave raid” on the West African coast.

Students are given imaginary tools including manacles, a whip, thumb screws and iron brands, to capture as many slaves as possible before building cages on the beaches to contain them.

They are encouraged to “bribe African chieftans” and “get them drunk to buy the slaves cheaper” or, as one slide reads, “even better, have an affair with a beautiful African girl”.

Finally, every pupil is asked to give a Dragon’s Den-style business proposal to explain how they plan to capture the slaves and what they will do to control them.

The slideshow, adorned with what Ligali described as comical caricatures and sound effects, has been used in Year 9 lessons by a history teacher at the school for the past three years.

Ligali’s action arose after one student, who has African heritage, was left “offended and humiliated” by the lesson plan, created by a teacher at the High Street school.

Her mother complained, and after receiving what she deemed an unsatisfactory response from the history teacher and head of department, took the issue to Ligali.

In a letter sent to headteacher Kate Webster on October 25, Ligali representative Toyin Agbetu described various elements of the material as “morally repugnant, insensitive and disrespectful”.

He also criticised the school for its use of the teaching materials and its subsequent “abject failure” in handling the serious complaint.

The organisation said the “insensitive and disrespectful” class activity was “like asking a girl to plan a gang rape where the perpetrators attack her own family members or a Jewish pupil to design a profitable oven for sale to Nazi Germany for use during the holocaust”.

It called on the school to recognise the distress caused by the slideshow and ensure that in future “the topic is taught using learning resources that are sensitive to the horrors of African enslavement and do not include tasks seeking children to recreate or reimagine the horrific events”.

Mrs Webster wrote back to “apologise unreservedly” for the presentation, which has been removed from the lesson plan, and said she shared Ligali’s concerns about the material.

Speaking to the Times Series this week, Mrs Webster said she had written to parents explaining the situation.

She said: “I felt the slideshow was clearly inappropriate and I spoke to the teachers involved but what I said will remain private.

“I’ve been in correspondence with Ligali and I think we’ve been very clear about the mistakes that have been made. The resolution was to move on in the knowledge that lessons have been learned.

“Cleary mistakes have been made but we have acted properly and the matter has been resolved.”

Comments (11)

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5:35pm Wed 28 Nov 12

Treenut says...

Wow.Can't believe this lesson style had been going on for 3 years and not been flagged up earlier.Blimey.
Wow.Can't believe this lesson style had been going on for 3 years and not been flagged up earlier.Blimey. Treenut
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9:08pm Wed 28 Nov 12

jp66 says...

My daughter took part in one of these lessons. After talking to her, I think it is clear that the intention of the teaching was far from racist. It was a means to getting the girls thinking about the issues, a much more effective method than simply telling them the facts. My daughter has come out of the experience more informed and aware of issues. I do not believe the school would do anything to offend intentionally.
My daughter took part in one of these lessons. After talking to her, I think it is clear that the intention of the teaching was far from racist. It was a means to getting the girls thinking about the issues, a much more effective method than simply telling them the facts. My daughter has come out of the experience more informed and aware of issues. I do not believe the school would do anything to offend intentionally. jp66
  • Score: 0

11:26am Fri 30 Nov 12

DConcerned says...

@Treenut, true @Jp66, I think most people I've spoken to about this consider themselves to be unbiased objectively, and weigh up the facts before jumping to any conclusion. But even those people are shocked that a school could try to teach such subject matter in the way it has. We know we live in a world of sensitivities that should be addressed, but there are some sensitivities which still run deep and fall short of turning into a "I'm a celebrity..." type farce, i.e. Holocust or Slavery to name the most obvious. Ok, whilst not as head on or divisive as say, the "Stanford Prison Experiement" (see Google) but once you walk a similar path in a school environment, who knows what then becomes acceptable and the effects (if not always evident on the surface) on pupils. @Teachers, I'm sure there are more ingenious ways (out of context, see film @Lean On Me) to make the same points without involving bribery / drink or illicit acts? which are the ills of our modern day society
@Treenut, true @Jp66, I think most people I've spoken to about this consider themselves to be unbiased objectively, and weigh up the facts before jumping to any conclusion. But even those people are shocked that a school could try to teach such subject matter in the way it has. We know we live in a world of sensitivities that should be addressed, but there are some sensitivities which still run deep and fall short of turning into a "I'm a celebrity..." type farce, i.e. Holocust or Slavery to name the most obvious. Ok, whilst not as head on or divisive as say, the "Stanford Prison Experiement" (see Google) but once you walk a similar path in a school environment, who knows what then becomes acceptable and the effects (if not always evident on the surface) on pupils. @Teachers, I'm sure there are more ingenious ways (out of context, see film @Lean On Me) to make the same points without involving bribery / drink or illicit acts? which are the ills of our modern day society DConcerned
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1:32pm Fri 30 Nov 12

GRG says...

@DConcerned wrote "I'm sure there are more ingenious ways (out of context, see film @Lean On Me) to make the same points without involving bribery / drink or illicit acts? which are the ills of our modern day society"
No offence, but wtf are you taking about?
@DConcerned wrote "I'm sure there are more ingenious ways (out of context, see film @Lean On Me) to make the same points without involving bribery / drink or illicit acts? which are the ills of our modern day society" No offence, but wtf are you taking about? GRG
  • Score: 0

1:32pm Fri 30 Nov 12

GRG says...

...talking about?
...talking about? GRG
  • Score: 0

1:44pm Fri 30 Nov 12

DConcerned says...

@GRG, No offence taken, primarily "WTF, I'm talking about" is just saying...you can't dress up @FromOriginalArticle “even better, have an affair with a beautiful African girl” which in slavery days constituted Rape and not some Disney Ponchonas love story. As a teacher, you have to make the distinction and not implant (unpurposely) in the minds of your pupils that because it was many hundreds of years ago it, it's a lesser travesty. Thats "WTF, I'm talking about"
@GRG, No offence taken, primarily "WTF, I'm talking about" is just saying...you can't dress up @FromOriginalArticle “even better, have an affair with a beautiful African girl” which in slavery days constituted Rape and not some Disney Ponchonas love story. As a teacher, you have to make the distinction and not implant (unpurposely) in the minds of your pupils that because it was many hundreds of years ago it, it's a lesser travesty. Thats "WTF, I'm talking about" DConcerned
  • Score: 0

1:50pm Fri 30 Nov 12

DConcerned says...

@GRG, as I said earlier, some sensitivities you have to approach in a certain way. I sat here and thought how would you approach the holocost in a similar manner. But personnaly, just the thought digusted me. I can only speak for myself, not sure what you would have to say on that?
@GRG, as I said earlier, some sensitivities you have to approach in a certain way. I sat here and thought how would you approach the holocost in a similar manner. But personnaly, just the thought digusted me. I can only speak for myself, not sure what you would have to say on that? DConcerned
  • Score: 0

2:13pm Fri 30 Nov 12

GRG says...

@DConcerned...I totally agree that it is no lesser travesty because it was hundred of years ago
I assume you imply that some children will, albeit sub-consciously, become, shall we say, intolerant of others because of this particular lesson. Obviously @jp66's child is not one of these and has learnt that slavery was/ is morally wrong in a way more understandable that just being told it is wrong.
@DConcerned...I totally agree that it is no lesser travesty because it was hundred of years ago I assume you imply that some children will, albeit sub-consciously, become, shall we say, intolerant of others because of this particular lesson. Obviously @jp66's child is not one of these and has learnt that slavery was/ is morally wrong in a way more understandable that just being told it is wrong. GRG
  • Score: 0

2:32pm Fri 30 Nov 12

DConcerned says...

@GRG....agreed, we works towards a majority / have been working towards a majority @JP66 but the sad reality is, as educators, no matter how much, "We are above thinking that" rhetoric we band around, we need to educate to the perceived non @JP66 mindset. Hopefully one day @JP66 will be the norm until then....
@GRG....agreed, we works towards a majority / have been working towards a majority @JP66 but the sad reality is, as educators, no matter how much, "We are above thinking that" rhetoric we band around, we need to educate to the perceived non @JP66 mindset. Hopefully one day @JP66 will be the norm until then.... DConcerned
  • Score: 0

1:24pm Sun 2 Dec 12

Annnne says...

jp66 wrote:
My daughter took part in one of these lessons. After talking to her, I think it is clear that the intention of the teaching was far from racist. It was a means to getting the girls thinking about the issues, a much more effective method than simply telling them the facts. My daughter has come out of the experience more informed and aware of issues. I do not believe the school would do anything to offend intentionally.
I totally agree with you JP66, my daughter also took part in this lesson and found it informative, innovative and in no way 'racist'. By allowing the girls to put themselves into the position of slave owners, they gained a better understanding of the atrocities that the slaves endured. I find the school very sensitive to differing ethnicities and think it is a shame that the school is given bad press when it is far from the truth. To compare it to gang rapes or ovens in the holocaust is totally irresponsible of Ligali, who clearly have an agenda of their own.
[quote][p][bold]jp66[/bold] wrote: My daughter took part in one of these lessons. After talking to her, I think it is clear that the intention of the teaching was far from racist. It was a means to getting the girls thinking about the issues, a much more effective method than simply telling them the facts. My daughter has come out of the experience more informed and aware of issues. I do not believe the school would do anything to offend intentionally.[/p][/quote]I totally agree with you JP66, my daughter also took part in this lesson and found it informative, innovative and in no way 'racist'. By allowing the girls to put themselves into the position of slave owners, they gained a better understanding of the atrocities that the slaves endured. I find the school very sensitive to differing ethnicities and think it is a shame that the school is given bad press when it is far from the truth. To compare it to gang rapes or ovens in the holocaust is totally irresponsible of Ligali, who clearly have an agenda of their own. Annnne
  • Score: 0

7:11pm Mon 3 Dec 12

TalktheTruth2 says...

@Annnne, why should this not be compared to the holocaust? I wonder whether the lesson be considered to be 'eye opening' If the pupils were asked to make business plans of how they would capture the Jews and trick them into taking 'showers' in gas chambers?
@Annnne, why should this not be compared to the holocaust? I wonder whether the lesson be considered to be 'eye opening' If the pupils were asked to make business plans of how they would capture the Jews and trick them into taking 'showers' in gas chambers? TalktheTruth2
  • Score: 0

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