Beckford Primary School renamed West Hampstead after vote opts against Beryl Gilroy tribute

The majority of voters went for West Hampstead Primary School over Gilroy Primary School, which would have honoured former...

The majority of voters went for West Hampstead Primary School over Gilroy Primary School, which would have honoured former headteacher Beryl Gilroy (right). Pictures: Google Maps/Beryl Gilroy Estate and Peepal Tree Press - Credit: Archant

Beckford Primary School will be renamed West Hampstead Primary School after a vote by staff, parents and pupils.

The school in Dornfell Street, currently named after former London mayor William Beckford whose wealth came from the slave trade, will formally adopt its new title in September 2021.

One of the options on the ballot, which attracted 50% support among staff but only a quarter of parents and pupils, was to rename the school after its former headteacher Beryl Gilroy - one of the first Black principals in the country.

With a mural to Ms Gilroy previously moooted, the school said it still plans to make a “permanent tribute” to its former head who led the school from 1969 to 1982, and who was part of the Windrush generation.

The move follows a review by Camden Council of its public places after the Black Lives Matter demonstrations earlier this year.

The school’s headteacher Sam Drake said: “The renaming of the school gives us an unparalleled opportunity to design and enact a new curriculum that is in line with our school values.

“I, along with the rest of the staff cannot wait to share it with our children whilst ensuring that our school continues to be a special place for them to learn and thrive.”

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Governors decided to change the school’s name in June. This followed the Black Lives Matter movement which brought with it a reassessment of the country’s colonial and racial past, and how this was reflected in the names of public institutions.

Amid this debate and a cross-party review held by the council, a petition was launched to rename the West Hampstead school after Ms Gilroy.

The petition, which attracted more than 750 signatories including former pupils, described the trailblazer as a “formidable and brilliant woman” who fostered “tolerance, diversity and excellence”.

In the eventual vote, the results from which were confirmed on Tuesday, the three options were West Hampstead Primary School, Gilroy Primary School or Broomsleigh Primary School - the latter taken from the school’s name prior to 1929.

Out of 393 pupil votes, 55% voted for West Hampstead, 25% for Broomsleigh and 20% for Gilroy.

Among 220 parents, 53% voted for West Hampstead, 24% for Gilroy and 23% for Broomsleigh.

Of 30 staff, 50% voted for Gilroy, 27% for West Hampstead and 23% for Broomsleigh.

In total, 69% of voters opted for West Hampstead.

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