City primary school changes name to break historic slavery link


A primary school in the City is changing its name because its founder made part of his wealth from the slave trade.

Pupils of Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary School will be starting the new school year at the newly named The Aldgate School.

The change came after school governors said they were “horrified” that the school’s founder was revealed during Black Lives Matter protests to have had links to the slave trade.

They removed a bust and statue of Sir John Cass from the school back in June when his links to the slave trade were revealed.

Sir John Cass served on committees of The Royal African Company which traded in slaves. He signed detailed instructions setting out how much food enslaved people and the crew should get, and made money from bonds in the company.

The primary school  has a 300-year-old history and is the only state-funded school in the Square Mile.

Its trustee is the Sir John Cass’s Foundation, which owns the freehold to the site and provides support to the school.

The chair of governors, Matt Pipe, said: “Governors have been horrified to learn that much of Sir John Cass’s wealth was derived from human exploitation. To retain these links with our founder would have been incompatible with our school’s vision and with the outstanding education it offers every child in our multicultural community.”

Sir John Cass was an alderman, sheriff and MP for the City. He gave money for a school for girls and boys in 1710.

A secondary school in Tower Hamlets has also changed its name to cut links to Sir John Cass and is now called Stepney All Saints.  It had annually celebrated its links at a Founder’s Day service in the City.

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The move to change the primary school’s name followed consultation with parents, and pupils were also asked for their ideas.

The governors said: “Our school is one in which every child is given full opportunity to flourish, irrespective of their background. Governors felt that to continue to celebrate our founder in the school’s name would be incompatible with our vision and values.”

More than 100 people joined in consultation meetings virtually.

And a school newsletter in July from head teacher Alex Allan noted people had very different ideas.

She wrote: “It is apparent that there is a range of very different views across the community.”

The Cass Child and Family Centre, which runs a reception class alongside a nursery and children’s centre at the school, will change its name to The City of London Child and Family Centre.

The school’s governing board said: “We all agreed that the values of diversity, equality and fairness which are enshrined in our school are not compatible with reports of Sir John Cass’s historic involvement in the slave trade.”

They decided to pick a name based on geography.

The governors said that “changing the name is not the end of the story” and they aim to increase  diversity of the governing body and review the curriculum “to help children gain a greater understanding of all histories.”

The Sir John Cass Foundation  has told the Charities Commission it wants to change its name too.

The Cass Business School at City University is also ditching Sir John’s name.

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