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