Primary school's £10,000 uniform appeal for name change over slavery

Pupils with their headteacher Jackie Benjamin at Tyssen Community School, which is soon set for a name change 

Pupils with their headteacher Jackie Benjamin at Tyssen Community School, which is soon set for a name change - Credit: Tyssen Community School

A Hackney primary school is trying to raise £10,000 to buy every pupil a new school uniform once its name, which currently has dubious links with the slave trade, is changed. 

Bosses at Tyssen Community School were informed about its history by Hackney Council's Review, Rename, Reclaim project, which has been investigating public spaces named after slave and plantation owners since the Black Lives Matter movement gained traction last year.

Dutch merchant Francis Tyssen, who settled in London in the 1640s, bought the Shacklewell estate at Hackney in 1685 with money earned from plantations in Antigua in the West Indies.

Tyssen's family also held shares in the British slaving company, the Royal African Company and he sat on its committees to decide which goods to buy from West Africa. 

Jackie Benjamin, headteacher of the school in Oldhill Street in Stamford Hill, told the Gazette: "When I heard about the links I thought straight away that our school is very multicultural, and I thought the parents would want the name change.

"For all the campaigns we've done over the years, this has been the one that spurred the most interest."

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Following a consultation, it was decided the school would be called Oldhill Community School and Children Centre after the road it is located in. 

The name change will take effect in September, and as a result, every child will need a new school uniform - which is estimated to cost about £4,000.

"We know that in these hard times, some of our parents will find it difficult to buy their children a brand-new uniform, especially when they have more than one child, so initially, we aim to supply a school uniform to each child free of charge," said Ms Benjamin, who has launched a crowdfunder to help cover the cost. 

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"We had a red uniform before and it seems every other colour is taken up in Hackney. So we are going for black, due to the fact that there aren't many schools with black base for the uniform."

Some of the money raised will go towards buying children tablets and laptops.

The council will also help fund the name change, which involves changing email addresses, the website and the sign outside.

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