Soccer-Deeney lobbies British government over teaching Black history

FILE PHOTO: Championship - Birmingham City v Fulham

By Peter Hall

LONDON (Reuters) - Birmingham City striker Troy Deeney has launched a petition and sent an open letter to the British government calling for the teaching of Black, Asian and minority ethnic history to be mandatory in English schools.

An anti-racism campaigner who helped to design the Black Lives Matter logo that featured on English Premier League club shirts in 2020, Deeney has written to education minister Nadhim Zahawi, saying the current school curriculum is "failing children from ethnic minorities".

"When my kids are speaking to me and saying certain things, it makes me look up and say 'what more can I do as a parent?'" Deeney told Reuters in an interview.

"My 12-year-old son is learning computer coding at school, my seven-year-old is talking about same-sex marriages and understanding that, which are both absolutely fantastic because the world is moving forward.

"Why can't we learn about the full version and view of diversity moving forward? Not just in history but in every lesson? It was implemented in Wales (last year) and in some English schools, so there is a framework. We have a solution -- now we want action."

Deeney's letter, sent on Tuesday, has already prompted a response from Zahawi, who tweeted: "Troy, thank you for raising this important issue. It would be good to discuss this with you and I will ask my team to reach out."

Following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020 during an arrest by police, the Black Lives Matter movement inspired sports men and women across the world to take a knee to raise awareness.

For Deeney, the meaning of taking a knee has been lost, leading to him adopt a more direct approach.

"I think where we're currently at in football is players are getting very frustrated with what has actually changed, as we have been taking a knee for nearly two years now," he added.

"We want to stress that we're not trying to take anything off the curriculum and people have to worry about losing their Britishness, if that is even a thing. We only want to add to it."

The former Watford striker, whose father is of black Jamaican descent, engaged with campaigners and commissioned a survey of 1,000 primary and secondary school teachers, which produced what he called "scary" results.

According to the survey, only 12% of teachers felt empowered to teach diverse topics, and 72% thought the British government should do more to support teachers in the teaching of cultural diversity.

It said 64% of teachers felt they were not given enough ongoing training to teach diverse topics, while 75% were not aware that teaching resources on cultural diversity were available.

"We have found evidence to show that the government has said it is the teachers' fault that diversity was not covered in the past," Deeney said. "Fortunately, the numbers have come back in our favour and the government will not like what they see.

"We have to be looking at these numbers and think this is a dangerous place that we're in now. Just over half of teachers feel that there's a national racial bias from top to bottom. That is scary."

Deeney has taken inspiration from Manchester United's Marcus Rashford and the success he had in taking on the government over the availability of free school meals.

"Unfortunately, a little bit of celebrity or mass public pressure is needed to push people to want to do something," Deeney added. "So if you look at Marcus and what he did, the government could not ignore him.

"He made enough noise that they had to act. And that's unfortunately the modern world. We have to get everybody on board to do something. And we will."

(Reporting by Peter Hall; editing by Clare Fallon)