Pupils at prestigious public school will receive lessons in ‘white privilege’

Pupils at one of Britain’s oldest schools are to be taught about “white privilege”, as it says that no progress can be made from “within a comfort zone”.

Students as well as teachers at Christ’s Hospital, a £36,600-a-year boarding school in Horsham, West Sussex, will all be given “diversity training” as well as lessons on “micro-aggressions and stereotyping”.

The school, which was founded in 1552, counts the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the slave trader Edward Colston among its alumni.

The plans were among a series of changes announced in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests last year.

The school’s treasurer and chair of council, Christopher Steane, explained that Christ’s Hospital “acknowledges the urgency with which attention must be given to challenging racism”.

He said: “We understand that the lived reality of being at Christ’s Hospital can have a significant impact and it is vital that the experiences and concerns of our black and ethnic minority pupils are heard, validated and acted upon.

Pupils at Christ's Hospital school, near Horsham, West Sussex, wearing their school 'blues', or uniform

Credit: Alamy

“lf this is not happening or, worse, if problems have been dismissed, then that must change. lt is our hope that we can start a conversation that helps us all, even where this involves difficult and uncomfortable reflections on our part. No progress can be made from within a comfort zone.”

Mr Steane said that heads of departments at the school have been “tasked to ensure that black British history influences curricular development”.

This will initially focus on addressing the challenges that are still faced today as well as historic racism, “explicitly teaching which words and phrases are racist and why and also examining and understanding terms like ‘systemic racism’ and ‘white privilege’.”

It is the latest public school to start teaching pupils about “white privilege”. Last month, it emerged that the London school St Dunstan’s, where fees are £18,000 a year, has also started teaching pupils about the concept, with discussion of topics such as how Meghan may have faced more adversity than Kate when joining the royal family.

Banning terms like ‘man up’

Other private schools, such as Alleyn’s, also in London, are introducing equality charters, mixed-gender football teams and banning terms such as “man up” in an effort to ensure racial and gender equality.

Last month, the Education Secretary said that schools should not teach “white privilege” as a fact. “Contested theories” and opinions should also not be presented to children without an appropriate balance, according to a paper presented to Parliament by Mr Zahawi.

The paper was written in response to the education select committee’s report about how white working-class pupils have been “let down” by the state.

The committee concluded that white working-class pupils have been “neglected” by the education system for decades. In their report, MPs urged schools to cease using the term “white privilege”, which “pits one group against another”.

MPs said that promoting this kind of terminology in schools could potentially contravene their duties under the Equality Act 2010.

Christ’s Hospital said it also established an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee last year, which will report to the school’s governing council on its progress. It added that all staff have been given “unconscious bias” training.

The end of summer term at
Christ's Hospital school in 2005

A spokesman for Christ’s Hospital said the changes were “part of our ongoing efforts to ensure that we offer a supportive environment in which every pupil can thrive”.

They said they are “determined” to improve the school’s culture and ensure that racism and racial prejudice are “acknowledged and their origins and history understood”.

The spokesman added: “Christ’s Hospital is, to the best of our knowledge, the most ethnically diverse independent school in the country, a huge privilege which is integral to our identity as a school and which empowers us enormously as a community in everything we do.”

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