This week, 18 Trinity Sixth Form students went to Old Palace School for an event with the respective African-Caribbean Societies of the three schools within the Whitgift Foundation. Around 60 students were present in total.
Mr Paterson explains: “It was the first of such occasions, which we hope will be a termly event; hosted in turn by each of the schools. The evening started with some informal ice-breaker games, before moving onto a quiz and finishing with an open forum discussion centred on questions brought by a representative of each school.”
Trinity’s Mel Aigbogun opened questions by asking if students felt that schools have a responsibility to increase the diversity of their teaching staff to reflect their student body. This prompted some thoughtful discussion not only about the question but also around deeper reflections, such as whether students from all backgrounds were encouraged equally to see teaching as a viable profession.
Old Palace asked the room if anyone felt they were ‘not black enough’ if they were second or third generation. This opened up a great deal of personal feeling, as students discussed how it felt not to be able to speak their grandparents’ first language. Some expressed guilt at not knowing more about the roots of their families, and that perhaps their parents or grandparents had hidden parts of their culture as it had been difficult for them to be open when first arriving in the UK.
Whitgift then led with a broad question about what defines the black British experience before narrowing down to the topic of being black within an independent school setting. There were many thoughts raised about how hard it can be to balance a connection to heritage with connection to a local or school community; potentially leading to a feeling of detachment from both. It was suggested that this was magnified within independent schools as many students feel they oscillate between having less privilege at school but greater privilege than members of their families or communities who did not have the same opportunities.
Mel Aigbogun said the event was ‘a huge success’, adding: “We got to meet like-minded people who have had similar experiences. Hearing their views on certain topics was very interesting. As one of the heads of Trinity’s African Caribbean Society, I am hoping to host a similar event early next year and hopefully to organise a large ACS event for all three schools, in which everyone can attend.”
Joshua Muyobo added: “We had important in depth discussions about the Black British experience and touched upon what it’s like to be of African-Caribbean heritage and attend a private school. One thing I took away from the social was how similar a lot of the experiences were between students during everyday school life. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone in what I was experiencing and provided me with someone to relate to. The music and snacks provided were amazing as well. Can’t wait for the next one!”
Many thanks to all that made this happen.
“The eloquence of all students was very impressive, as was the openness and vulnerability shared by many. Hopefully building these connections across the three schools will provide a space for many more of these discussions, which will lead to meaningful change for all of our students.”
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