Lessons on migration and empire should be made compulsory in secondary schools, says race equality thinktank

Immigrants from the
Carribean came on the Empire Windrush
to help rebuild Britain after the war.
Immigrants from the Carribean came on the Empire Windrush to help rebuild Britain after the war.

LESSONS on migration, belonging and empire should be made mandatory in every secondary school in the country, said a race equality thinktank.

In a report, the Runnymede Trust said it wanted to see a new approach to teaching on the subject in schools. Although the subject was covered in various parts of the curriculum, whether a pupil gets to study it was largely dependent on the topics selected by schools.

The report, written with the Tide migration and mobility project at the University of Liverpool, concluded: “The number of schools teaching migration, belonging and empire is unknown. Migration and empire are not marginal events: they are central to our national story. As it stands the story we are telling is incomplete,” the report said.

Calling the government to carry out research to find out what exactly is being taught in schools, the report said teachers should be given proper training to handle the subjects.

Kimberly McIntosh, Runnymede’s senior policy officer and one of the report’s authors, said at present, whether students get taught “this vital part of our national story is a lottery.”

“A lack of understanding of migration and empire has consequences for contemporary Britain,” McIntosh was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

“Last year’s Windrush scandal laid bare the shocking lack of understanding successive governments had about the ‘winding up’ of the empire – with lives ruined as a result. As we grapple with our post-Brexit future, a realistic appraisal of our past and present relationships with the wider world, as well as migration and empire, has never been more urgent.”

Disagreeing with the “narrow scope” of the report, a Department of Education spokesperson said the topic of migration and the British empire are compulsory in several parts of the history and English curriculum for both primary and secondary school.

“Our compulsory citizenship curriculum also teaches students about the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, which is historically linked to the British empire and its diverse, national, regional, ethnic and diverse identities,” said the spokesperson.