To Dr. Bird, Mrs. Clark, Mr. Garrod, Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Monk, Mr. Parker, Dr. Ricks,  Ms. Whitall, and Mrs. Wilkinson:

School leaders from across The Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham have come together to ask you to take further action on racism, and race education in our schools. Together we represent over 7,700 voices which are calling out to be heard. My name is Adeen Irfan and I am Chair of the Student Council at King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys. I have written this message with the support of pupils from each of your schools. 

The past week has seen protests across the world following the killing of George Floyd. The world is calling out for change but that change must start locally. The Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham can and should lead the fight towards eradicating racism in schools not just in Birmingham but across the country. We are calling on you to implement the changes we detail in both the pastoral and curricular activities of our schools. 

The Schools of King Edward VI motto reads “In pursuit of educational excellence for all”. We’re asking you to show us that this motto, which we see plastered on the walls of the institutions we walk through each day means more than a slogan. The Schools of KEVI website states the admission proposals introduced in 2020 were, and I quote, “designed to enhance our historic mission of providing high-quality education, in a local school, for the children of Birmingham, regardless of background.” This support for disadvantaged students cannot stop the day they walk through the doors. Racism is commonplace within our schools as it is in all schools across the country. There will never be an easy path to being rid of racism but there is always something that we can do. Through working together with your pupils and having conversations on topics that can be uncomfortable, we can make our schools safer for all.

The first point I’d like to raise is the practical use of school behavioural policies. They exist to protect vulnerable pupils from abuse and when any kind of racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic abuse occurs in our schools, it is of great importance that a strict approach is taken. The choice a pupil makes when reporting abuse is often difficult and emotional. Pupils should be made to feel that if they choose to report abuse, that they will be taken seriously. As pupils of the Schools of King Edward VI, we are privileged in our education and many of us will go on to manage people and shape the world. If the message sent out is that racism is tolerable, we have failed in our pursuit of educational excellence.

The second point I’d like to raise is the creation of safe spaces for pupils to report abuse. Many of the pastoral structures in our schools work incredibly well. I have personally felt well supported by the pastoral structure at Camp Hill Boys however I understand this may not be the case for all BAME pupils. We as pupils are calling on you to make these support structures more representative of the pupils they are there to support. Black and minority ethnic pupils in all schools should have a fully trained member of staff to which they can share things that they may feel uncomfortable sharing with a white member of staff. Another solution to this problem is the use of an online reporting system which I understand some schools use. It would be interesting to hear of its effectiveness and whether it’s something that other King Edward VI schools should look into. It is only when pupils feel comfortable reporting abuse that we will begin to see the scope of the problem in our schools, which we can work together to tackle accordingly. 

Moving on from pastoral issues, my third point is the education of pupils on race-related issues. As academies, I believe we are free to choose our curriculum. As such, we have made a lot of progress in recent years however we are calling on you to lead the way in educating pupils on race, not just in PSHE but in the Arts, Humanities, and Sciences. Race is not just a social issue. Black history does not start and end with Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King in the USA. The role of the British in the transatlantic slave trade and the impacts of British colonialism should be taught. The work of black and minority ethnic poets, writers, artists, and pioneers should be taught earlier than at a GCSE level. The impact that racism has on our society to this day should be explored. It is through conversations with pupils that they will begin to be educated about the world we live in. The world we are let out to after we leave your schools is not the same one you were let out to. With the use of the internet and the availability of cheap air travel, our sister cities of Chicago, Johannesburg, and Guangzhou are just as close as Lyon, Frankfurt, and Milan. To just be taught European history, and to not be taught the historic impact of British actions overseas is not good enough. We can do better and we must do better. 

We are writing to you today not only to ask for action but to offer support. We are currently looking into setting up a committee of students representing all the schools of King Edward VI, which will meet virtually via Zoom or a similar platform to discuss the best ways for the points above to be implemented. This group would represent pupils of all backgrounds, and would ideally have both senior and junior members of staff. Ultimately, we are trying to foster a conversation and then implement change. I believe this group would prove invaluable as a consultation, working around the practicalities and fixing the problems we may face in implementing our policies. This group will also hopefully provide us with our next steps beyond our three key points. It will exist to support you in enacting policy change that is supported by pupils. We’d like to ask you to appoint two to three pupils from your school to sit on this committee. It is important to appoint pupils that have the support of the student body, taking into consideration roles such as head boys, head girls, and chairs of student councils.

The three points we have raised will not fix the racism in our schools and communities overnight but they are few steps towards our goal of an equal and fair society. A public statement similar to Lea Forest Primary Academy or Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream would go a long way but your pupils are calling on further steps to be taken. We are using our voice and our voice must be heard. We are pupils who hold a mandate for change and are willing to work with you to implement that change. I sincerely hope you will take us up on our offer. I look forward to hearing from you with the details of who you will be appointing to our committee and we will be in touch with further details. Together we can make our school communities safer. 

Yours Truly

Adeen Irfan

Chair of the Student Council

King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys

Ardeel Hussain

Member of Youth Parliament

King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys 

Jake Bown

Prefect and Head of LGBT Society

King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Girls

Talbir Singh

Chair of the School Council

King Edward VI Handsworth Grammar School for Boys

Mahfuza Khandokar

Young Wellbeing Lead

King Edward VI Handsworth School for Girls

Emil Ali

Head Boy

King Edward’s School

Dec Foster

School Captain

King Edward VI Five Ways School

Alsafin Ashab

Vice-Chair of the Student Council

King Edward VI Aston School

Sanjay Rajput 

Head Boy

King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys

Macey Garvey

Head of BAME Society

King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Girls

Jack Griffiths

Vice-Chair of the School Council

King Edward VI Handsworth Grammar School for Boys

Akaal Sekhon

Member of Youth Parliament

King Edward VI Handsworth School for Girls

Aadil Ali

Prefect

King Edward’s School

Nicole Nabal

School Captain

King Edward VI Five Ways School

Zain Ali

Chair of the Student Council

King Edward VI Aston School