School named after slave trader Edward Colston considering change

A school named after slave trader Edward Colston is considering changing its name.

Colston's Girls' School in Bristol is to launch a six-week "transparent consultation" in September on whether to rename.

Principal Kerry McCullagh said she had been contacted by past and present students over the issue – with opinions split.

The school name and association with Colston has been the subject of renewed public scrutiny since the statute of the 17th century merchant was toppled by Black Lives Matter campaigners during a protest last Sunday and thrown in Bristol's harbour.

Ms McCullagh said the school, which was founded in 1891 with an endowment from Colston, was proud to be an "inclusive and diverse community".

"We teach our students that their own voice is a powerful tool that can be used to influence change and we encourage them to stand up for important issues that matter to them," she said.

"We are very open with our students about where the wealth of the school's benefactor came from and we recognise that the name Colston does not always sit comfortably.

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Statue torn down in Bristol
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Statue torn down in Bristol
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 11: The statue of slave trader Edward Colston is retrieved from Bristol Harbour by a salvage team on June 11, 2020 in Bristol, England. The statue was pulled from its plinth in the city centre and thrown in the water by anti-racism campaigners during a Black Lives Matter protest. (Photo by Andrew Lloyd/Getty Images)
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 11: The statue of slave trader Edward Colston is retrieved from Bristol Harbour by a salvage team on June 11, 2020 in Bristol, England. The statue was pulled from its plinth in the city centre and thrown in the water by anti-racism campaigners during a Black Lives Matter protest. (Photo by Andrew Lloyd/Getty Images)
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 11: The statue of slave trader Edward Colston is retrieved from Bristol Harbour by a salvage team on June 11, 2020 in Bristol, England. The statue was pulled from its plinth in the city centre and thrown in the water by anti-racism campaigners during a Black Lives Matter protest. (Photo by Andrew Lloyd/Getty Images)
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 11: The statue of slave trader Edward Colston is retrieved from Bristol Harbour by a salvage team on June 11, 2020 in Bristol, England. The statue was pulled from its plinth in the city centre and thrown in the water by anti-racism campaigners during a Black Lives Matter protest. (Photo by Andrew Lloyd/Getty Images)
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 11: The statue of slave trader Edward Colston is retrieved from Bristol Harbour by a salvage team on June 11, 2020 in Bristol, England. The statue was pulled from its plinth in the city centre and thrown in the water by anti-racism campaigners during a Black Lives Matter protest. (Photo by Andrew Lloyd/Getty Images)
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 11: The statue of slave trader Edward Colston is retrieved from Bristol Harbour by a salvage team on June 11, 2020 in Bristol, England. The statue was pulled from its plinth in the city centre and thrown in the water by anti-racism campaigners during a Black Lives Matter protest. (Photo by Andrew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Protesters pull down a statue of Edward Colston during a Black Lives Matter protest rally in College Green, Bristol, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
Protesters pull down a statue of Edward Colston during a Black Lives Matter protest rally in College Green, Bristol, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
Protesters throw statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
Protesters throw statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
Protesters dragging the statue of Edward Colston to Bristol harbourside during a Black Lives Matter protest rally in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
Protesters throw statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
Protesters throw statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
Protesters throw statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 11: The statue of slave trader Edward Colston is retrieved from Bristol Harbour by a salvage team on June 11, 2020 in Bristol, England. The statue was pulled from its plinth in the city centre and thrown in the water by anti-racism campaigners during a Black Lives Matter protest. (Photo by Andrew Lloyd/Getty Images)
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"With the full support of our sponsors, the Society of Merchant Venturers and the University of Bristol, the board of Venturers Trust and the leadership team of Colston's Girls' School have decided that the time is right to begin a transparent process to determine whether the name Colston's Girls' School should be changed.

"A six-week consultation will begin in September 2020 when we hope to be able to reopen the school to all year groups and facilitate the necessary opportunities for our students to debate and discuss the issue with their peers in person.

"This is a very important decision for our school and we will place the views of our students at the heart of the consultation process, as well as welcoming input from parents, our stakeholders and the local community.

"The six-week consultation will conclude with a decision on whether to keep or change the name of the school and, if the latter, what the new name will be."

The separate Colston's School, which was founded by the merchant in 1710, said it was also "looking at" a name change.

Black Lives Matter protests
A sign on the empty plinth where the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol once stood (Ben Birchall/PA)

Caroline Duckworth, treasurer of The Society of Merchant Venturers, which plays an active role in managing three institutions that bear Colston's name, said: "As the co-sponsor of Colston's Girls' School, we are fully supportive of their plans to conduct a transparent consultation to consider renaming the school.

"We welcome a new name that accurately reflects the school's vision and values. We also support Colston's School as they too enter a process of discussion about the school's name."

Colston's statue, which has stood in the city centre since 1895, was retrieved from the city's harbour on Thursday and will go on display in the M-Shed museum along with placards from the protest.

On Thursday, lettering spelling out Colston Tower was removed from the landmark building in the city.

A commission of historians and other experts is to be set up in Bristol to consider the city's past and share its stories, the council announced on Wednesday.

Decisions on what will happen to the plinth where Colston's statue stood will be made "democratically through consultation", Mayor Marvin Rees added.

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