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Hundreds call for West Hampstead primary to be renamed after London’s first black headteacher

PUBLISHED: 12:04 22 June 2020 | UPDATED: 12:09 22 June 2020

Beryl Gilroy, London's first black headteacher. Picture:  Beryl Gilroy Estate and Peepal Tree Press

Beryl Gilroy, London's first black headteacher. Picture: Beryl Gilroy Estate and Peepal Tree Press

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Hundreds of people have called for a West Hampstead primary school to be renamed after London’s first black headteacher.

Beckford Primary School. Picture: Google MapsBeckford Primary School. Picture: Google Maps

Beckford Primary School has confirmed it will seek to consult on a new name following calls from campaigners who highlighted its namesake dedication, William Beckford, owned slaves.

Former pupils of the school - Wara Mutasa, Steve Hogarth, Richard Frost and Dominic Dawes - have created a 400-strong petition to rename the school after Beryl Gilroy.

She was headmistress of Beckford from 1969 to 1982 and an ethno-psychotherapist writer of the Windrush generation.

READ MORE: West Hampstead school named after slave trader answers calls to rebrand

The petition described the trailblazer as a “formidable and brilliant woman” who fostered “tolerance, diversity and excellence”.

Dominic, who attended the school from 1974 until 1982, said: “I was lucky enough to grow up in an area of north-west London that was richly diverse and harmoniously so: a progressive and tolerant community that not only taught me the positive value of diversity and difference, but also made me a lifelong anti-racist.

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“Our primary school headteacher, Beryl Gilroy, was central in fostering this culture. She inspired pupils, teachers and the wider community alike, and served as a model for the simultaneous pursuit of excellence and tolerance.”

He added Ms Gilroy’s name is “far more woven” into the school’s history than William Beckford was.

READ MORE: Petition urges West Hampstead primary school to reconsider slave trader name

This comes as statues and memorials in public places around the UK have come under scrutiny in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Camden Council has also announced a cross-party review to re-examine statues, monuments and place names around the borough.

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Beckford headteacher Sam Drake said plans were already in the pipeline to paint a large mural to Beryl Gilroy at the front of the school.

He said: “We were keen to review the name anyway, regardless of the petitions, and regardless of what the outcome is for renaming the school, Beryl is part of the history of the school.

“We need to get the process going so we can see what other ideas are out there and see what is going to get the support of the community.”

See the petition at https://tinyurl.com/yacwqg4s


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