Two top private schools are changing their names after discovering their founder was a shareholder in a slave trading company, the Mail has learned.
Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School and Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls yesterday confirmed the name of 17th century merchant Robert Aske will be removed from their titles.
In addition, the motto ‘Serve and obey’ will be ditched by the schools because it has possible slave connotations.
In March the £21,000-a-year schools, based in Elstree, Hertfordshire, announced they were considering the move after finding out that Aske invested £500 – then a large sum – in the Royal African Company, which shipped 100,000 slaves from Africa between 1672 and 1698.
Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School (pictured) and Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls confirmed the name of 17th century merchant Robert Aske will be removed from their titles
Robert Aske provided 300 years of education
Thousands of pupils now attend 13 Haberdashers’ schools across the country – a far cry from the institution’s humble beginnings.
When Robert Aske, pictured, died in 1689 he bequeathed £20,000 for the education of children.
The original school started with 20 boys, aged nine to 15, from poor families at an almshouse in Hoxton, east London.
Girls were admitted in 1874 and the almshouse was divided into two to separate the genders.
Two buildings were established in 1898 with the boys in Hampstead, north London, and the girls in Acton to the west of the capital.
Meanwhile, the schools raised academic standards and allowed pupils to study aged of 18.
The boys’ school was relocated in 1961 to Hertfordshire, with the girls joining as an official sister school in 1974.
There are currently 13 Haberdashers’ schools in areas including London, Kent and Shropshire. Not all bear Aske’s name.
In a letter to former pupils yesterday, the heads of the schools wrote: ‘Many feel that, regardless of its size, Aske’s investment was offensive, unacceptable and at odds with our beliefs and values today.
‘Others feel strongly that through his legacy Robert Aske benefited generations of children, that historic acts should be viewed in the context of their time and that changing names could be perceived as tokenistic or an attempt to deny history.
‘At an individual school level, we will no longer use the Aske name.’
The schools, whose ex-pupils include Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen, comedian David Baddiel and TV host Vanessa Feltz, will also introduce a ‘revised and more diverse curriculum…that places greater emphasis on ethnic minority history, the impact of colonialism and the challenges of integrating different faiths, ethnicities and origins into society.’
The original school was founded in 1690 after Aske created a charitable foundation from his estate and the letter acknowledged the ‘lasting impact’ on the education of thousands of children since then.
It concluded that the ‘legal and collective name of the schools should retain the Aske name’.
Aske is reported to have held £500 of original Royal Africa Company stock. The company’s origins date back to King Charles II, who granted a charter to expand the transatlantic slave trade.
The schools’ board chairman Simon Cartmell had written to parents announcing the initial consultation, saying: ‘It is clear to us all that the role of the Royal African Company and the other companies involved in the slave trade was deplorable and abhorrent.
‘Such activity sits in stark contrast with the values which underpin the activities and philosophy of the company, its schools and beneficiaries today.’
It was also confirmed the motto ‘Serve and obey’ – inspired by Christian values to ‘serve the Lord and obey the Ten Commandments’ – would no longer be used.
The letter stated: ‘It was felt that its 16th century origin requires explanation in today’s world and could be interpreted very differently in the context of slavery, multi-faith diversity, marriage vows, emancipation and equality.’
Both the girls school and boys school (pictured) alsoconfirmed they would implement a more ‘diverse curriculum’ that places greater emphasis on ethnic minority history and the impact of colonialism and challenges of integrating different faiths, ethnicities and origins into society’
It will be replaced by ‘Together, Boundless’. Aske died in 1689 and left £20,000 in his will to the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers to establish a chapel and school in east London.
The school moved to Elstree in 1961. Several other schools around the London area have Haberdashers’ Aske’s in their titles, but they are not thought to be planning similar name changes.
The move comes amid a series of consultations launched by British institutions after last year’s Black Lives Matter protests.
Thirty schools plan to erase the names of Sir Francis Drake and others linked to slavery and creating the British Empire.
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