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An open letter to the BGS community

This is an open letter to the BGS community. We are writing in response to those of you who have contacted us to ask about the school’s approach to educating our pupils on issues of racism and inequality, following recent events in the United States and around the world.

The injustices and inequalities highlighted by the death of George Floyd, and the subsequent protests around the world, including in our city, are important issues for us all. As a school in the centre of Bristol, we feel keenly our duty to engage and educate our pupils on the issues of racism, prejudice and injustice in all their forms. We stand in solidarity with those in our community who are affected by racism and bigotry, and we understand the role we have to play, within wider society, in endeavouring to bring about change.

It is written explicitly into our school’s aims that we wish to be a place where diversity and difference thrive. In this regard, we do not want simply to ensure that our pupils are aware of racism and other injustices in the world. Rather, we want to educate and empower them to bring about real and sustainable change.

We recognise that the wider BGS community may wish to understand the work that we are doing on these issues. We have just completed a year-long partnership with the organisation SARI (Stand Against Racism & Inequality), work that continues to help our young people to understand the ways in which discriminatory language and behaviour affect individuals and the community, and to give pupils and staff the tools they need to call out and respond appropriately and safely to any such behaviour wherever they witness it.

We have a pupil-led Equality Society whose messages are prominent around the school and through assemblies, and who, in the light of recent events, are looking to curate resources for tutor-time discussion among all pupils. They also organise our annual Equality Week, and work closely with our staff Diversity Group.

Our History department has this year begun work on diversifying our Key Stage 3 History curriculum, with the study of Medieval Mali in Year 7, uncovering the history of black Africans living in Tudor England with Year 8, and the experience of colonial armies on the Western Front in Year 9. There is the desire and appetite to go much further still.

There are more things that we are, and that we could be, doing. We know that these social problems have deep roots and there isn’t a quick or simple fix. We are grateful to those of you who have made suggestions as to how we can develop our work further in these important areas.

We know that change – at BGS, in Bristol and in the wider world – will not come overnight. But this is a seminal moment, and at BGS, we remain fully committed to this important, long-term work. We would be delighted, once circumstances allow, to welcome you into school, to discuss any of this further with us, or to see and hear for yourself the work we are doing.

Jaideep Barot, Headmaster