A secondary school has asked students to list the “pros and cons” of slavery for a homework assignment.
The task has been heavily criticised by parents, who have branded it “racist, inappropriate and offensive”.
Revealed by HuffPost UK, the exercise was given to Year 11 GCSE pupils by a history teacher at the Hazeley Academy in Milton Keynes.
Students were tasked with highlighting the possible motivations for slavery, to show how plantations were motivated by profitability.
Parent Sabrina Aries immediately raised the issue with the school’s head teacher. She received a response apologising “for any upset caused by the homework”.
She told HuffPost:
The response from the school was that they’re sorry, there hadn’t been an intention to offend anybody and the teachers were going to have a conversation with the students in class about why the wording was incorrect and why it needed to be addressed.
I don’t feel that, individually, any of those teachers meant to cause offence. But I also think that, as a majority white staff, they do not consider history from any other perspective.
To me, if they re-educate the children appropriately then I don’t have an issue with the fact that there was a mistake made. The fact that the mistake has not been rectified is an issue to me. This is an ongoing problem that I have with this school.
Responding, the head teacher of Hazeley Academy, Tony Nelson, said in a statement:
Instead of ‘pros and cons’ mentioned, we have adjusted this to ‘Reasons why Britain chose to develop plantations’ and ‘Why slavery shouldn’t exist’.
Nelson continued to explain that the head of department had explained to Aries that “in no way where we trying to encourage, celebrate or praise slavery and therefore we have amended the language in this homework”.
We stress throughout the lessons on this topic that we do not see this as a positive part of history and that it was one of Britain’s most shameful acts
Responding to the task going viral, campaigner Paul Lawrence of community-based mentorship organisation The 100 Black Men of London told HuffPost UK:
Black history has been under attack and this appeared to be another attempt to rewrite history and justify European aggression.
He continued that teaching children about possible benefits of slavery is fundamentally wrong, and “akin to teaching them that one plus one equals four”.