Every October, we celebrate Black History Month, and the rich learning opportunities this brings. We have been astounded by the children’s desire to find out more, their empathy, their compassion, their inclusivity and their developing understanding.

St Andrew’s were delighted to be visited once again by Eddy Smythe, who last year told the incredible story of his father, Johnny Smythe, as a black man in the RAF during the Second World War. This time, he shared his father’s story to a spellbound KS1, and talked about his own experiences with KS2. Some lovely comments about Eddy’s visit:

“What a fascinating story Eddy had to share! It was lovely to see the interest the children had; the story of Eddy’s dad kept the children captivated. Lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the year 2 boys sat near me, especially the part where a badly injured Johnny parachuted from his damaged plane and ran to safety!” Year 1 TA

“Johnny was amazing. He must have been so brave.” James, Year 2

“It made me want to learn about the war.” Toby, Year 2

"The story Eddy told about his dad was incredible. The children and adults - were totally absorbed." KS1 Teacher

“Very interesting, fun and easy to listen to.” Sophia, year 3 “I liked how he persevered when he was feeling sad.” Harry, year 3

“He was a very good storyteller. He was able to describe exactly how the people must have felt!” Beau, Evie and Star, year 4

“I enjoyed looking at the old pictures! I just couldn't believe the story, especially the fact that some people found the crashed plane in their garden!” Charlie, year 4

“Wow it was amazing!” Alyssa, year 4

“I really enjoyed the talk; it bought back memories of learning about World War 2 in Year 3.” Grace, year 4

We also decided to explore the topic of representation this year – it was introduced last year but the children find it quite a tricky concept! This time, we talked about the impact that the new ‘The Little Mermaid’ film was having. The children watched the trailer for the film, followed by reactions of young black girls around the world when they realised that Ariel is portrayed by a black woman. We also explored books to see if we could find characters just like us; we watched clips from Strictly where Rose Ayling-Ellis and Ellie Simmonds performed amazingly despite their disabilities; and we thought about our own experiences of being ‘different’ in some way.

Year 3:

MW: Black people and white people should be able to do the same things. I think this should change.

ZW: If I saw no-one that looked like me, I would feel like I don’t belong in a space like this. CB: I would feel sad if I never saw anyone who looked like me. We don’t all look the same and it doesn’t matter.

ZWa: It does not matter how we look. I’m glad we don’t look the same. AM: I would feel left out, disappointed and alone. We can be equal in every way.

Year 4:

AP: Representation is important because everyone needs to feel happy and not feeling like they don’t belong in this world. Representation is not just about skin colour; we are all equal however we look.

LW: We are all equal because we all have the exact same rights as everyone in the world. Never judge a book by its cover. Never judge someone before you get to know them.

RR: We are all equal because we are only different outside and inside everyone is the same because everybody makes mistakes.

MH: Media representation is important because every race/person needs to be included.

Year 5:

JA: If I never saw someone who looked like me on TV, I would feel like people that looked like me didn’t matter.

TS: Representation isn’t just about skin colour, it’s also about inclusion of LGBTQ, glasses wearers, Asian people in western countries. Everyone and anyone need to be represented to make them feel like they belong.

EB: If I saw someone in a film that looked just like me I would feel appreciated like I belong in this world.

Further down the school in EYFS and KS1, it was clear to see that the children simply do not see colour or ‘differences’. They see their friends, and they believe that we should all be able to play together and talk to each other no matter what we look like. They do, however get very excited when they find someone who looks just like them!

“I’ve drawn Harry Potter because he has a scar, and so do I!” James, year 2

“She looks like me! I’m happy.” EYFS

Hearing the children’s comments has been truly heart-warming and I am so proud of them. We can also clearly see the importance of representing all walks of life; this is something that we will continue to learn about all through the year, not just each October. If you, or someone you know, has a story that you would like to come in and share with our school then please do let us know. It is invaluable for the children to hear stories and events direct from you – it makes it more ‘real’ for them in a subject that can be confusing; they can ask questions to deepen their knowledge and they just love visitors!

Emily Darlington – History Leader