Plan to rename Beckford Primary School approved
Cross party panel makes first decision since it was launched following BLM protests
13 July, 2020 — By Tom Foot
Beckford Primary School
A PRIMARY school’s name will be changed after almost a century because of its links to the slave trade, a council review has concluded.
Beckford Primary School’s is the first building to be approved for a name change by councillors on a cross party panel set-up in response to Black Lives Matter protests.
The panel is reviewing all buildings to see if they are named after “an individual whose actions have contributed to or directly benefited from oppression”.
Its statement said: “We have both concluded that a name change is warranted and that the school’s governing body will start consultation with parents and pupils to choose a new name in September.”
The West Hampstead school is named after William Beckford who owned sugar plantations in Jamaica along with a reported 3,000 slaves.
The 18th century MP argued in Parliament against the abolition of the slave trade that had helped make him one of the richest men in the country.
Beckford school’s governing body said it welcomed the decision and has set out a timeline for the process including a vote on the new name in November and a final decision in December.
The new name will come into effect by September 2021.
Headteacher Samuel Drake, in a letter to parents on Friday, added: “We would like to reassure our families that we acknowledge the potential costs for uniform. We will consider any additional costs when launching the new name.”
He said he hoped the name change will “give pupils a further opportunity to learn about this history and also a more diverse range of locally significant figures”.
The decision to change the name was brought about by the Black Lives Matter protests that followed the death of George Floyd in America.
Hundreds have signed a petition calling for the school to be renamed after Beryl Gilroy, who ran the school between 1969-82 and was one of the first black headteachers in the country.
Beryl Gilroy at Beckford School
It has also be suggested that the school should return to its original name, Broomsleigh Street School.
The school’s statement added: “Together we are united in rejecting racism – in educating all generations and in moving forward together towards an equal society.”
The decision to change the name to Beckford in 1929, by the London County Council, has stumped local historians who say there is no evidence of any public donation or consultation at the time.
William Beckford did not live in West Hampstead although his wife did and son, a novelist who is also called William, lived for a few years near what is now West End Green.