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Timeline to remove slaver from name of West Hampstead primary school revealed

PUBLISHED: 19:15 10 July 2020 | UPDATED: 19:15 10 July 2020

Beckford Primary School. Picture: Google Maps

Beckford Primary School. Picture: Google Maps

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A West Hampstead primary school, currently dedicated to a man with links to the slave trade, has revealed the timeline for changing its name.

The board of governors at Beckford Primary School will start consulting its pupils and parents on a new name in September, with a view to vote in November, finalise a decision by the autumn term next year and officially rebrand for September 2021.

Although headteacher Sam Drake had indicated his hope to kick-start the process in June, Camden Council has now green lighted the idea as part of a cross-party review of statues, monuments and place names around the borough.

READ MORE: Camden launches cross-party review into names of public spaces

The school’s name was thrown into debate following the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol by a Black Lives Matter protest.

It is currently named after William Beckford, a two-time London mayor who owed his inheritance to the slave trade in Jamaica because his father, Peter Beckford, owned eight plantations.

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According to University College London (UCL), William owned 1,356 slaves when he died in 1770, including serving slaves in England and plantation workers in Jamaica.

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

A petition calling for the change reached about 400 signatures while another petition, asking for it to be retitled to honour Beryl Gilroy, had support from about 700 people.

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

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

A joint statement issued by Camden Council and Beckford Primary School Governing Body 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.

“This will allow the school to fully involve pupils once they return from their summer holidays, giving them an opportunity to learn about the history of William Beckford and why he is no longer a suitable candidate for celebration in the school’s name.

“The school has a rich and diverse history that reflects our borough, and over the past year there has been a conscious effort to diversify the curriculum, making it more representative of the local community. Similarly, the renaming process will give pupils a further opportunity to learn about this history and also a more diverse range of locally significant figures.”

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