Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School

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Statement from the Headmaster: Black Lives Matter

I received yesterday (15 June) a letter from pupils and some parents, past and present, at the Vaughan.  It raises questions about the content of the History curriculum with suggestions as to how it could be changed to shine a greater light on Britain’s role in colonial rule in the past and so help to fight racism in society today.  It goes on to suggest that the course-content of other subjects could be similarly altered.

It is therefore important for everyone to know where I and the school stand on this issue.  Let me begin by stating the obvious: racism is an objective moral and social evil.  There can be no defence for it, and so there is no place for it.  No good can ever come of it, as the shocking murder of George Floyd so hideously shows.  We at Cardinal Vaughan seek, in the words of Cardinal Manning, the formation of the whole person: intellect, heart, will, character and soul.  Racism stunts any such formation.  That much is unarguably clear. 

But racism takes various forms.  It is not enough simply to condemn and combat its obvious manifestations; we need also to identify and address its more insidious, hidden and systemic operations.  And to this extent, the curriculum itself becomes a tool for moral good in addressing the current regressive status quo.

I attach below a list of some of the topics currently taught by the History Department; this is a fuller description than the broader overview on the website and so might be instructive.  It will be clear that these topics do not represent a gilded, monochrome, romantically white-centric vision of Britain’s past.  The question is whether they go far enough to address the problems of our current age.  They are a good start and a clear advance on the past (the Sociology curriculum, also included below, explicitly addresses such issues), and we can go still further.

All schools are required to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equal opportunities and foster good relations and must publish information demonstrating how they are doing this.  Additionally, schools must have objectives in these areas.  The directors of the Vaughan are due to review the school’s Equality Objectives at their next meeting in July.  When they do, they will take account of all aspects of provision for BAME pupils, including the content of the school curriculum (in all subjects, of course, and not just History), and will do so in a purposeful and progressive way.  It is a responsibility which they, and I, welcome and embrace.

Paul Stubbings


History Curriculum

KS3 History

KS3 schemes of work at Cardinal Vaughan include the following lessons:

Civil War – Cromwell in Ireland

The industrial revolution and the slave trade

The British and racism: slave ships

The British and racism: plantations

Abolition of slavery

Rise of dictatorships: Italy – Mussolini and Abyssinia

Causes of WW2: failure of the League of nations – Mussolini and Abyssinia

The Holocaust

Concentration camps


Final solution and death camps


In addition to lessons in school, the department runs a four-day activity trip in July – London Through The Ages.  Over the past three years we have visited numerous sites and museums including:

Museum of London

The pupils were able to visit the exhibitions that explore and celebrate London’s diversity including the roots of the Caribbean, Irish, Italian and Jewish communities.  They also visited the exhibition on slavery in London and the sugar trade and slavery.

Imperial War Museum

Including exhibitions on the role of empire and commonwealth troops over the 150 years.  This includes the role of the West Indies Regiment in WW1 and the role of empire and commonwealth troops during the Battle of the Somme.

Churchill War Rooms

The Second Boer War and Churchill’s role and actions in South Africa

National Maritime Museum

The pupils visited the exhibition on Tudor and Stuart seafarers which focus on the exploration and colonisation of the ‘New Worlds’ and the devastating impact this had on the indigenous communities who lived there.


GCSE History

As part of the GCSE course the pupils are taught the following:

Changing definitions of crime: race crime

New opportunities for old crime: people trafficking

Tensions in Whitechapel c. 1870-1900 – immigration and Anti-Semitism

Nazi Germany: treatment of minorities

Elizabethan England: exploration and voyages of discovery, attitudes to other civilisations and cultures, establishment of Nova Albion and treatment of Native Americans by white settlers, Native American resistance

The department also runs a four-day residential trip to Berlin where the pupils visit Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum (the former Oranienburg concentration camp).


A-Level History


Britain 1900-1951 


Civil Rights in the USA: 1865-1992 

African American civil rights

Trade union and labour rights

Native American civil rights

Women and civil rights


GCSE Sociology

 The following topics are taught which focus on inequality: 


A-Level Sociology

Lower Sixth

Upper Sixth