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Bristol private school will drop name of slave trader Edward Colston

·3 min read

A school set up more than 300 years ago will drop the name of slave trader Edward Colston.

Colston’s School in Bristol, which was founded by the 17th century merchant in 1710, will change its name following a consultation in the summer.

It comes after a statue of Colston was toppled in the city during a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020.

The private school said the name Colston “will forever be associated with the enslavement and deaths of African men, women and children” following the events that took place in Bristol in June last year.

A survey on the name received more than 2,500 responses – including 1,096 from the general public.

More than four in five (81%) of the members of the public who took part in the survey said the school should retain the name of Colston’s.

But analysis of the feedback of respondents who are part of the school’s community – such as pupils, alumni and staff – showed that they were more inclined to see a change in the name of the school as a positive step.

Students, former pupils, parents and staff will be involved in the process of choosing a new name, with an announcement expected in summer 2022.

Nick Baker, chairman of governors at Colston’s School, said: “After a lengthy period of consultation, consideration, and reflection, it became clear that those with a closer connection to the school would prefer to have a name that was more relevant for the pupils and staff of today and tomorrow.

“It is hoped that a new identity will do more to reflect the values and ethos that the school stands for today and to make it even more welcoming to the local community it serves.”

Colston's School
Colston’s School (Handout/PA)

But the governors said the move “will not erase the school’s history” and teaching of the transatlantic slave trade and the role of Colston in Bristol’s history will remain a key part of the school’s curriculum.

Colston paid for the school to be established more than 300 years ago in order to prepare boys from “poor families” for meaningful apprenticeships, a statement from the board of governors said.

It added: “This school was not named after Colston, rather it was named by Colston.”

Jeremy McCullough, the school’s headmaster, said: “Changing the name will not change the nature of our happy, diverse and forward-looking school.

“We will continue to provide an excellent and holistic education and to do our very best to support those families who entrust us with their children.

“It is an exciting new chapter for the school, and I am proud of our pupils and staff for engaging in this complex discussion and for being a part of the future they want to see.”

In November last year, Colston’s Girls’ School in Bristol announced it would become Montpelier High School after a vote with current students and staff.

It came after the bronze memorial of Colston was pulled down on June 7 in 2020 and dumped in Bristol Harbour. It was later recovered by Bristol City Council and placed in a museum.

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