Celebrating Black History Month in Schools

Leeds has a diverse population, with over 140 ethnic groups represented across the city. There are almost 200 different languages spoken by our children and young people in schools. From the Spring census data collection 2018, it was reported that in Leeds primary schools 36.1% of pupils are from a Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) background and 22.6% speak English as an Additional language (EAL). In Leeds secondary schools 33.6% of pupils are from a BME background and 22.6% speak English as an Additional language. These figures are set to increase over the coming years. It is therefore important that we celebrate the diversity and bilingualism in our schools and settings.


Since 1987, Black History Month (October) has been an annual celebration of the achievements and contributions made by Black and Minority Ethnic people and communities in all walks of life. Celebrating this diversity and bilingualism in the curriculum instils pupils with respect for their fellow pupils whilst teaching and learning about different cultures, religions and languages. It creates positive self-images, raises self-esteem and confidence for pupils. It provides the opportunity for pupils to explore and learn about different communities and the world. Celebrating diversity can incorporate family, community, national, international, cultural and religious celebrations and how these reflect the values and beliefs of a particular group. It aims to develop cultural understandings and examines the issues of prejudice and racism. Pupils should be given the opportunity to evaluate their own attitudes as members of a multicultural society. Celebrating diversity should involve using local resources, such as the community and families, as well as learning about local festivals to ensure that topics are relevant to the pupils’ experiences. Ofsted (School inspection handbook, September 2018) identify the importance of celebrating diversity through the quality of leadership and management of the school: ‘The broad and balanced curriculum inspires pupils to learn. The range of subjects and courses helps pupils acquire knowledge, understanding and skills in all aspects of their education. Pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and, within this, the promotion of fundamental British values, are at the heart of the school’s work. Leaders promote equality of opportunity and diversity exceptionally well, for pupils and staff, so that the ethos and culture of the whole school prevents any form of direct or indirect discriminatory behaviour’.

There are many different strategies and ideas to celebrate Black History Month in schools. These can be used in October and indeed throughout the whole year. The list and links below are not exhaustive but may give schools some ideas.

Deliver an assembly to launch Black History Month. The links below are ready made assemblies that can be adapted for individual schools:

Learn/listen to a new song that celebrates BME communities or is written by a BME composer.

Promote and learn about famous BME role models – both in history and the present day. Each group/class could research a different person and then share in a presentation. This research would also make a fantastic display for sharing with parents and the local community.

Teach a lesson in class to promote Black History Month. The TES website www.tes.com
has many readymade lesson plans and resources that you can download and use as they are or adapt to suit individual needs.

Read a book to your class/provide a book for each teacher to read to their class. These books can contain positive role models or be written by BME authors. These links take you to lists of books that you can select from:

Arrange a workshop for the pupils from an external provider. These sessions are very powerful and engaging for the pupils and can be inspiration for further work. These links are local to Leeds but schools in other LAs will be able to find local providers.

Invite local community members into school to talk to the pupils and share their experiences and culture with them. Music and food are great ways to engage both pupils and parents.

Create a display to celebrate Black History Month.

The final link takes you to a `free` global wall planner. This is a useful resource for mapping out the year. It includes all the major Religious festivals and other dates to celebrate in schools, for example, Refugee week, Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month, Fairtrade fortnight. It also includes annual events, for example, Holocaust memorial day, Anti-slavery day, world book day as well as some ‘obscure’ events, e.g. World toilet day!

Celebrating Black History Month and promoting different communities in schools is important to ensure that pupils are receiving a broad and balanced curriculum but also in preparing them for life in the wider world. It will raise the self-esteem and confidence of BME groups and is a great opportunity to engage parents and the local community in school life. Finally have fun and enjoy celebrating!

Sally Hall

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