A primary school has been forced to apologise for asking pupils to come in dressed as slaves with ‘dirty and worn out clothes’ for Black History Month.
Parents of Year 2 pupils at St Winefride’s Catholic Primary School in Manor Park, east London, received the controversial letter on Friday.
It particularly asked if youngsters could come to school in ‘dirty and worn out clothes’ for a special assembly, adding: ‘It might be an idea to not wash these clothes and stain them with tea or coffee to look more authentic’.
Girls were allegedly encouraged to wear straw hats or fabric head wraps, while boys were required to wear straw hats or berets.
St Winefride’s Catholic Primary School (pictured) in Manor Park, east London has been forced to apologise after asking children to dress up as slaves for Black History Month
One outraged parent, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Newham Recorder: ‘You wouldn’t ask Jewish children to come in and re-enact the holocaust.’
But the mother said the school had put on a wide range of other activities to mark Black History Month, including inviting Rastafarian poet Benjamin Zephaniah to speak to the children.
Zephaniah publicly rejected his Order of the British Empire in 2003, saying: ‘Me? OBE, me?
‘I get angry when I hear that word ’empire’ it reminds me of slavery, it reminds me of thousands of years of brutality.’
The east London parent told the newspaper she did not think the ‘slavery’ incident was representative of the school’s general approach, but the actions of one ‘rogue’ teacher.
She added: ‘They have done a lot for Black History Month.’
The school’s headteacher, Paul Underwood, today issued an apology.
He said: ‘I apologise on behalf of the school for Friday’s unauthorised letter and the offence caused.
‘The letter was seen by no senior members of staff before being sent.’
Another letter has now been sent out to the same group of parents, apologising for the original one.
A school spokesman said the letter was ‘deeply regretful’.
She said: ‘We deeply regret the offence caused to our pupils and school community.
‘This letter was sent out without the approval of the school’s senior management team or governors.
What is Black History Month?
Black History Month is an annual observance in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
It began in 1926 as a way of remembering important people and events in the history of the African diaspora.
It was first observed in the UK in 1987 and is celebrating its 30th year this year.
Events take place across the country in schools, town and city centres.
‘We have written to those who received the letter to apologise and we have also spoken to the members of staff involved and taken steps to ensure an incident like this does not happen again.
‘We understand the importance of Black History Month and celebrate this by studying the success and achievements of black role models.
‘The content of this letter is not in keeping with the ethos of the school or a reflection of how the school celebrates Black History Month.’
Locals discussing the incident on Facebook claimed several parents have complained – despite not having children at the school.
One branded it ‘horrendous’, while another said it was ‘terrible racism’.
But others urged people to have more sympathy for teachers who are ‘just trying to provide a proper education’.
Black History Month UK is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, remembering the achievements of black activists, politicians, and cultural figures.