School axes historical icons including Lord Nelson as House names

Primary school headteacher replaces Houses named for ‘oppressive’ figures such as Sir Walter Raleigh and Lord Nelson with Greta Thunberg and Marcus Rashford after ONE ex-pupil complained

  • Howden Junior School, in East Yorkshire, announced four new names this week
  • Lord Nelson, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake will not be used as names
  • Pupils chose Greta Thunberg, Marcus Rashford, Malala Yousafzai and Amanda Gorman as the new house names after ex-pupil wrote ‘passionate email’ to head 

A junior school has replaced its house names which honoured historical figures with woke icons including Greta Thunberg and Marcus Rashford after one student complained.

Howden Junior School, in East Yorkshire, ditched the names of Sir Walter Raleigh, Admiral Nelson and Francis Drake and the school’s student council voted on replacements.

As well as environmental activist Greta Thunberg and footballer and poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford, the students chose American poet Amanda Gorman who read a piece at Joe Biden’s inauguration and human rights activist Malala Yousafzai.

The student council at Howden Junior School in East Yorkshire has voted to replace the names of their houses with the names of (L-R) Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai and Amanda Gorman

The school will also name a house after Marcus Rashford who hit headlines for his anti-poverty campaigning and his efforts to encourage the Government to provide free school meals

Headteacher Lee Hill (pictured) praised the courage of the pupil who got in touch with him and credited her with teaching him about the history of the former house names at the school

Headteacher Lee Hill shared the news on Twitter and commended ‘the courage of the child who made a stand’.

He wrote: ‘I’m really excited & proud to share this. Not just because of the individuals our School Council chose as representing our school community values or the incredible art from local artist Amy Smith but because of the courage of one child who made a stand.

‘During the Black Lives Matter protests, I received a passionate and brave email from a former pupil.

‘This pupil not only educated me about the history of the three house names – that sat on our website, in our hall and were raised as ambassadors for our school – but also explained the impact of seeing these figures – who have links to slavery, oppression and racism – had on her during her time at our school.

‘Not only a brave email to send to a white male in a position of power but also an email that set off a chain of events.’

The email was sent by the pupil at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement which saw growing tensions about Britain’s colonial past, sparked by global outcry following the death of George Floyd in the US.

The school decided to make the changes after an ex-pupil got in touch and raised concerns about the house names and their associations to slaver. Pictured (L-R): Admiral Nelson, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake will no longer be used as house names at the school

Floyd was killed when white police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds despite his desperate pleas that he ‘can’t breathe’. He passed out and later died in Minneapolis on May 25.

His death is seen as a symbol of systemic police brutality against African-Americans sparking outrage and largely-peaceful protests first across the US before quickly spreading worldwide.

The headteacher goes on to explain that the school had no ‘tangible reason’ to keep the historical names and that none of the pupils knew who they were as they were not part of the curriculum.

He said the students had chosen the new names based on the four individuals’ actions and ‘their impact on the world we share’. 

He added: ‘We do not condone racism or any form of discrimination in our school but by doing nothing we were.

‘We were sending a message that it was part of our culture through our inaction – it was systemic and accepted. We had a responsibility to act.

Howden Junior School in East Yorkshire announced the new house names online this week

‘To Francesca, I want to say thank you for your courage – for making a stand, for being a role model to our school community and beyond.

‘For showing that each of our voice matter and that we can make a change for the better. You have taught me more than you can imagine.’

In October last year, a school in Bristol changed its name after a vote by students and staff.

Formerly known as Colston’s Girls’ School – after slave trader Edward Colston – the school is now known as Montpelier High School in an effort to ‘forge its own identity’.

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