Bristol school set up by Edward Colston may change its name in wake of BLM protests

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A Bristol private school set up by slave trader Edward Colston could be forced to change its name following a consultation with parents.

Colston’s School told parents that discussions on whether its name has a future would take place in June.

Colston – a philanthropist and 17th century slave merchant – founded the independent school in 1710.

A bronze memorial to Colston was ripped down by Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Bristol on June 7 and dumped in the city’s harbour amid tensions around Britain’s colonial past.

Colston’s School launched a review into its name following the city-wide protests but it was suspended in January when Covid lockdown rules meant the school had to shut.

Governers at the time wanted students to be have support from their teachers and friends when considering the survey questions, ITV News reports.

A Bristol private school set up by slave trader Edward Colston could be forced to change its name following a consultation with parents 

A bronze memorial to Colston was ripped down by Black Lives Matter demonstrators (pictured) in Bristol on June 7 and dumped in the city's harbour amid tensions around Britain's colonial past

A bronze memorial to Colston was ripped down by Black Lives Matter demonstrators (pictured) in Bristol on June 7 and dumped in the city’s harbour amid tensions around Britain’s colonial past 

Colston - a philanthropist and 17th century slave merchant - founded the independent school in 1710

Colston – a philanthropist and 17th century slave merchant – founded the independent school in 1710

But Headmaster Jeremy McCullough told parents in a letter the consultation is now set to take place in the summer term – with views gathered from students, parents, alumni, teachers and members of the public.

A history of Colston’s School and how it is linked to the 17th century slave merchant

Colston’s School was founded by philanthropist and 17th century slave merchant Edward Colston in 1710.

Then dubbed Colston’s Hospital, the school was initially an all-boys boarding school.

It admitted day-boys in 1949.

In 1984, girls were admitted to the sixth form.

In 1991 it merged with a nearby girls’ school and was named Colston’s Collegiate School. 

But it was reverted back to Colston’s School in 2005.

Its motto is ‘Go and do thou likewise’, the Colston family motto.

Mr McCullough said in a letter to parents: ‘As the government now begins to relax the various restrictions on school life, we feel able to move this consultation forward again.

‘While we cannot yet meet for assemblies, or engage in the cut and thrust of face-to-face debate in quite the way we would like, we do believe that a full and open consultation will now be possible.

‘We intend to launch the formal survey in the second half of the summer term and will seek the views of students, parents, former-students and teachers, in addition to those of the wider general public who wish to comment.’

The school’s board of governors is set to make a decision in September. If they decide to change the name, a further review will then take place.

Four people charged with criminal damage following the removal of the Colston statue entered not guilty pleas in court in March. 

In March, a school with links to Colston unveiled its new logo after its old one resembled the politician’s family crest.

The Dolphin School in Bristol changed the design from two of the aquatic mammals either side of an anchor to two jumping over a wave.

Staff said the new badge will allow them to ‘move forwards with a clear identity’ after using the original symbol since it opened in 2012.

A consultation was launched in September for parents, pupils and staff to learn about the links between the school and the slave trader.

A total of 460 voted in the internal poll and were given three options – to keep both the name and the emblem, change the emblem but keep the name, or change both.

Almost half – 46 per cent – voted to keep the name but change the emblem, which matched a public poll showing 46 per cent picking the ‘middle’ option.

The Dolphin School in Bristol changed the design from two of the aquatic mammal either side of an anchor to two jumping over a wave

The Dolphin School in Bristol changed the design from two of the aquatic mammal either side of an anchor to two jumping over a wave

Staff said the new badge will allow them to 'move forwards with a clear identity' after using the original symbol (pictured) since it opened in September 2012

Staff said the new badge will allow them to ‘move forwards with a clear identity’ after using the original symbol (pictured) since it opened in September 2012

A consultation was launched in September for parents, pupils and staff to learn about the links between the school (pictured) and the slave trader

A consultation was launched in September for parents, pupils and staff to learn about the links between the school (pictured) and the slave trader

The new logo was developed by the founder of Iconic Black Britons Michele Curtis, with input from pupils.

Students and staff over the last week voted for their favourite of four designs the local artist created.

Vice Principal Kate Jenkins, said: ‘This has been an exciting journey for the whole school and we are really proud to reveal our new emblem which allows us to move forwards with a clear identity.

‘The children loved working with Michele on the design process and they were brilliant at articulating their ideas and justifying their opinions.

‘Our new dolphin emblem represents the curious, intelligent and responsible nature of our diverse school community.’

The decision to change the logo came in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests that rocked Bristol.

A bronze memorial to Colston - a 17th century slave merchant and philanthropist - was ripped down by demonstrators on June 7 (pictured) and dumped in the city's harbour

A bronze memorial to Colston – a 17th century slave merchant and philanthropist – was ripped down by demonstrators on June 7 (pictured) and dumped in the city’s harbour

Pictured L-R: Milo Ponsford, Rhian Graham and Jake Skuse, who in March appeared at Bristol Crown Court charged with criminal damage over the toppling of the statue. They pleaded not guilty

Pictured L-R: Milo Ponsford, Rhian Graham and Jake Skuse, who in March appeared at Bristol Crown Court charged with criminal damage over the toppling of the statue. They pleaded not guilty

Sage Willoughby arrives at Bristol Crown Court in March ahead of entering a not guilty plea

Sage Willoughby arrives at Bristol Crown Court in March ahead of entering a not guilty plea

How is the dolphin linked to Edward Colston and why is it an issue for the school? 

Dolphin School was set up in 2012 by the Society of Merchant Venturers as a primary school next door to Colston’s Girls’ School.

The dolphin has long been associated with Edward Colston, and the family emblem of two dolphins facing each other appears on the plinth beneath the statue of the slave trader.

A legend told over the centuries in Bristol has it that one of Colston’s ships was damaged at sea and a hole appeared beneath the water line.

The ship was about to sink, but a dolphin wedged its body into the hole to stop up the leak and the ship managed to reach port.

As one of the key figures in the running of the Royal Africa Company in London in the 17th century, Colston’s own ships transported 80,000 enslaved African people across to the plantations of North America and the Caribbean, and almost 20,000 died or were killed in the crossing.

As a member of the Society of Merchant Venturers in Bristol, Colston opened up the lucrative slave trade to Bristol’s merchants and developed the specialised boats that effectively industrialised the transatlantic route enabling millions of people to be transported.

After moving from Bristol to London at the age of ten, he never returned to live in the city, but left a slice of his fortune to charitable projects, although only those who agreed with his religious views were generally allowed to receive alms or education.

When three charitable societies were set up in Victorian times to further the philanthropic work of Colston and the Society of Merchant Venturers, they were named Grateful, Anchor and Dolphin.

Ms Curtis said: ‘The Dolphin School pupils are natural collaborators, they have so many great ideas which they feel confident to share, but they are also skilled and patient listeners, taking on board ideas and feedback from their classmates.

‘Together we explored what the symbol of a dolphin means. The children wanted the emblem to show more than one dolphin because in the wild, dolphins live in pods to support each other, just as the members of The Dolphin School community support each other.

‘However, the children also wanted the emblem to represent diversity so the circular shape represents our global community and the waves represent the diversity found in our oceans, reflecting the diversity of the school community where 46 different languages are spoken.’

Year 4 pupil Suhana, who has been working on the project since September, added: ‘Being able to vote on big decisions about the future of our school was exciting.

‘I feel really proud of our new school emblem and I enjoyed helping to design it. Dolphins are curious, which is one of our school values.’

Three schools closely linked with Colston – that were still run by the Society of Merchant Venturers – last year announced consultations on the future of their names.

Colston’s Girls’ School said it was going to change its name, while Colston’s School launched a consultation.

Chair of Governors at The Dolphin School Lynn Robinson said: ‘The entire name-change process has provided the school community with so many positive opportunities.

‘Through the public consultation the school has further strengthened its relationship with the local community and the children learnt the importance of listening to a range of different opinions.

‘The ”what’s in a name/emblem?” workshops in school encouraged pupils to consider the meaning of symbols, to explore Edward Colston’s connection to Bristol and the role he played in the transatlantic slave trade, and also to think about what a future emblem might say about them and the school.

‘Pupils experienced democracy first-hand by voting to change the emblem in October and now by selecting their new emblem.

‘They’ve also had the incredible opportunity of working collaboratively with a nationally respected artist.

‘Revealing our new emblem might sound like the conclusion of this journey, but it is in fact the beginning of an exciting new chapter for all of us.’

The Dolphin School will remove the old design from buildings and the school uniform from September.



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