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West Suffolk College, Bury St Edmunds, sets out plans to be first in the UK to teach black history all year round




A Bury St Edmunds college has set out plans to be the first in the UK to teach black history all year round.

Following the death of George Floyd in the USA last year, Ellisha Soanes, equality and diversity innovation lead coach and lecturer in health and social care at West Suffolk College, started a discussion with her students.

The discussions led to pupils creating a tribute to George Floyd, making a video outlining their own experiences, and creating staff sessions to talk about issues they have faced.

Ellisha Soanes, equality and diversity innovation lead coach and lecturer in health and social care at West Suffolk College. Picture submitted.
Ellisha Soanes, equality and diversity innovation lead coach and lecturer in health and social care at West Suffolk College. Picture submitted.

Students whose work was exemplary were given certificates for their efforts - Rebekah Russel, Grace Tydeman and Esther Ruse were three who picked up accolades.

All the work involved drew attention from The European Social Fund and PLACE 21, who have set up funding to support a new group of equality diversity digital inclusion ambassadors who will be picked from students and staff at the college.

The ambassador’s role will be to embed black history into the curriculum all year round and facilitate projects incorporating the LGBTQ+ community and the work of women’s rights, among others.

Grace Tydeman and Esther Ruse. Picture submitted.
Grace Tydeman and Esther Ruse. Picture submitted.

Ellisha, from Ipswich, 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.

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

George Floyd was murdered on May 25 last year.
George Floyd was murdered on May 25 last year.

"I’m incredibly passionate about this project. Quite why this hasn’t happened before is a bigger question.”

Throughout discussions with students, Ellisha made sure she encouraged her students to have open and honest conversations and help spread the positive message of equality, diversity and inclusion within college and the wider world.

“I’d like to acknowledge what our students have done so far and I’m delighted that the college has given them this platform to discuss these important issues that we are all so incredibly passionate about,” Ellisha said.

West Suffolk College has set out plans to be the first in the UK to teach black history all year round.
West Suffolk College has set out plans to be the first in the UK to teach black history all year round.

“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.”

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