The Experiences of Visible Minoritized Groups at School inthe North of England, 1960-1981

I am a fully-funded PhD student with the Heritage Consortium working at The University of Huddersfield. My project is about the experiences of children from visible minoritized groups in northern British schools during the 1960s and 1970s. I will interview around twenty Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) people and at least ten other individuals who were active in multicultural education such as teachers, parents, policy-makers and activists. Alongside a 40-50,000-word thesis I will produce a documentary film which will be shared publicly and used as an educational tool.

Due to their contrasting economic, and migration histories my case studies will be Liverpool and Kirklees. Liverpool is a port city with historic links to the slave trade. It contains one of the oldest Black communities in Britain, and the oldest Chinese community in Europe, whereas the textile towns which form the metropolitan borough of Kirklees only began developing notable populations of visible minoritized groups from 1960 onwards.

My aim is to highlight the varied nature of BAME children’s memories of school through speaking to individuals with a range of educational experiences. For instance, some will have been educated alongside other members of their ethnic group, whereas others might have been the only ‘coloured’ child, as they were then known, in their class, or school. A child’s ethnicity, class, gender, location and the treatment they received from their teachers was key to shaping their experiences. Some people recount generally positive memories, whereas others feel understandably bitter about their time in education. Schools are a form of social control which actively shape the worldviews of all children, but for BAME pupils they could be especially oppressive during this period. BAME people throughout Britain during the 1960s and 1970s experienced overt and covert racism which is shocking to hear about today. It would however be false to characterise them as passive victims, but BAME school-children were not especially able to fight back against the mistreatment they received.

My project takes place during what I describe as the first period in British multicultural education history, 1960-1981. The period begins when mass migration from the Commonwealth prompted local and national policy-makers to become concerned with Britain’s increasingly multicultural schools. Despite recommending that Black Caribbean and South Asian students be dispersed around schools by bus in 1965, the national government generally attempted to maintain a hands-off approach allowing Local Education Authorities to decide how to treat BAME students. During this time the government’s rhetoric progressed from openly promoting the assimilation of people then described as ‘coloured immigrants’, to advocating that Britain become a multicultural society. Despite this assimilation remained the unstated goal of the small number of policies which affected BAME pupils throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The publication of the Rampton Report in 1981, the first major government report on the education of BAME children, signalled the end of this era in a year which also saw the eruption of serious violent disturbances in multicultural lower-working class districts across the country. In the aftermath of these events research on multicultural education proliferated and Britain headed towards the introduction of a national curriculum through the Education Reform Act, 1988. BAME people at school during the 1960s and 1970s therefore experienced a unique period in British education history. Their memories are a part of British history that was hidden until recently and constitute an important aspect of our shared multicultural British heritage.

Biography

Although I was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, my family has historically resided in Huddersfield and it is where I have predominantly lived my life. I received a First Class with Honours in History at the town’s university in 2015, and earned a funded Masters by Research which I passed without any corrections in 2017. My MA project was on dispersal school bussing in Huddersfield during the 1960s and 1970s and how it affected Black and Asian children. As part of the portfolio of work that I created for the MA I produced a short documentary which can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcebaTMspUk&t=38s