West Suffolk College to teach black history all year-round

West Suffolk College. Picture: GREGG BROWN

West Suffolk College are set to deliver year-round Black history teaching - Credit: GREGG BROWN

West Suffolk College is looking to become what may be the first college in the country to facilitate the teaching of black history all year round. 

The college in Bury St Edmunds made this decision when staff and students wanted to bring about a positive change, in the wake of the death of George Floyd in the US in May last year. 

After his death, equality and diversity innovation lead coach, and lecturer in health and social care, Ellisha Soanes, encouraged her students to have open and honest conversations about how they could change the narrative and help spread the positive message of equality, diversity and inclusion within the college and the wider world.  

Ellisha is delighted that the college has given both her and her students the platform to discuss the important issues that they all feel so passionate about. 

She said: “As far as we are aware, we are the first college in the UK to teach black history all year round.  

“We spoke to the Association of Colleges and they were not aware of any other colleges who were doing this.

"The director of diversity (Jeff Greenidge) has been very encouraging. 

Ellisha Soanes spearheaded the idea of year-round black history teaching at West Suffolk College

Ellisha Soanes spearheaded the idea of year-round black history teaching at West Suffolk College - Credit: West Suffolk College

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“Our mission is to encourage other colleges across the UK to do the same.

"I’m incredibly passionate about this project.  

“Quite why this hasn’t happened before is a bigger question.” 

Students at the college created a tribute to George Floyd, made a video to talk about their experiences and created staff sessions, led by learners, to discuss issues affecting the BAME community.  

Because of her student’s efforts, Ellisha created an awards ceremony to recognise their work with Rebekah Russel, Grace Tydeman and Esther Ruse picking up certificates during an awards ceremony at the college.  

The work of the students attracted interest from people associated with The European Social Fund (ESF) and PLACE 21 who have set up funding to support this work. 

The college is now in the process of employing a new group of equality diversity digital inclusion ambassadors from students and staff at the college, whose role will be to embed black history into the curriculum at the college all year round.

Ellisha added: “Ultimately we want to bring about positive change across the college, the county and the country and create a sustainable model that others can adopt. 

“We’d like to thank the ESF and PLACE 21 for helping to fund this work.  

“I’d also like to thank the innovation team - Katie Wilden and Sophia Carn-Pryor – for helping to ensure the funding could be put into place to support diversity projects and the new ambassadors."

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