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Cotham Gardens Primary School

A Co-operative Academy

Do you think the school should keep its name or change it?


No need to make a snap decision. You have until 21st October 2017 to actively reflect on this, and please do think carefully about it, by:

  • Reading through the information, comment and opinion on this page


What do you need to know?

What are the school's current values?

What is the relevant history relating to the school and its name? Why is it called Colston's Primary?

Who is Edward Colston?

How is the the figure of Edward Colston covered within the school curriculum?

Further Research and leads around naming of institutions after Edward Colston and other historical figures

Is changing the school name a feasible prospect in terms of financial and legal constraints?


The school’s current values

Colston’s Primary School: A Co-operative Academy

School Vision Statement

Celebrating Diversity, Learning Together

At Colston’s Primary School we take a caring, creative, and holistic approach to nurturing and educating children.

Our aim is to encourage and inspire all children in our care to be the best they can be. Our collaborative approach to their education encourages them to be responsible, resilient, confident, compassionate, open-minded, and happy citizens of the world.

Governors and staff want the children at Colston’s Primary School to enjoy their school journey, discover their individual strengths and motivations, respect and celebrate each other’s individuality, and develop a lifelong love of learning.

The guiding principles for the whole school community stem from our six co-operative values and three basic golden rules.

Co-operative Values

Self-help   …we help everyone to help themselves!

Self-responsibility  …it is up to us to make good choices!

Democracy  …we listen to each other and value what everyone says!

Equality  …we are all given the same chances to do our best!

Equity   …we make sure everyone is treated equally and fairly!

Solidarity  …we stick together!

Golden Rules

Be Kind

Be Responsible

Try Your Best

 This vision statement was published in July 2017 further to a governor led review 2016/17. It reflects input from pupils, staff, parents, co-operative forum representatives and members and governors.

Relevant History

  • The school buildings began life as domestic residential houses in Victorian times.
  • 1941: Colston’s Girls School (founded in 1891, funded by the Society of Merchant Venturers, using the substantial bequest of Edward Colston which was made for the provision of education in, the first school to have been founded in this way being Colston’s Hospital which opened in 1710) acquired Upton Lodge - 18 Cotham Grove - to house its Junior school. This was due to war damaged buildings on their main Cheltenham Road Site. Upton Lodge belonged to Alderman Burt whose grandchildren Mary and Kathleen had attended Colston’s Girls School.
  • 1942: The house next door, Osborne House, became available and the governors rented it to provide more space for the junior school.
  • Colston’s Girls school, Senior and Junior continued to be a Direct Grant School, benefitting from Edward Colston’s endowment for education, managed by the Merchant Venturers Society
  • 1944 Welfare State was emerging, and Butler’s Education Act was passed, introducing the idea of free education for primary and secondary schooling for all and the concept of the Local Education Authority.
  • 1945: Labour wins the election, and Colston’s Girls' School becomes a Direct Grant Grammar School with new rules of entry (11 + exam open to all) to the senior school, no longer being able to guarantee places for girls from the Junior School. Because of this, and the Junior School’s dip in results for the 11 + it lost pupils and therefore money, leading to the eventual closure of Colston’s Girls Junior housed at the Cotham Grove site in 1941-46.
    • 29th November 1945: Minutes from Bristol Education Committee Meeting: 
    • 168. Colston’s Girls’ School.   ‘The Chairman reported that on 27th November he had received, with the Vice-Chairman and Chief Education Officer, a deputation from the Parents’ Association of Colston’s Girls’ School. The deputation asked whether the Education Committee would be willing to make strong representations to the Minister of Education with a view to a reversal of her decision respecting the removal of the Colston’s Girls’ School from the direct grant list from 1st January, 1946.

    Alderman Sir John Inskip moved, and Alderman Henley Evans seconded, that an expression of the Committee’s regret at the removal of Colston’s Girls’ School and Redland High School from the direct grant list be conveyed to the Minister, and that she be asked to reconsider her decision. On the motion being put by the Chairman and on a show of hands, the motion was declared not carried.

    • The LEA took over the school premises and the pupils in it and all ties with Colston’s Girls School were severed.

    In Colston’s Girls School: The First Hundred Years (published by Redcliffe Press Ltd in 1991), author Sarah Dunn reports: ‘ Soon after the status was changed there was controversy, which spread to the columns of the local papers as to the propriety of its retaining the name of Colston. Happily, no official notice was taken of this small mindedness’

    [I have been trying to find evidence of the 'columns of the local papers' to no avail, but will keep researching the Bristol Post Archives kept at the Central Bristol Library Reference Section - others welcome to go and have a look too and report back - KSP]

    18th November 1946: Minutes from the Primary Education Committee, sub committee of the Bristol Education Committee

    18. Colston’s Primary School.  The Chief Education Officer reported that, on the suggestion of the Ministry of Education, the governors of Colston’s Girls’ School had been approached with regard to the continued use of the name of Colston in the school title now that the school had been taken over by the Education Committee as a primary school and that they had requested that the name of Colston should cease to be used in connection therewith.

    Resolved - that the governors be asked to reconsider their decision.

    20th January 1947: Minutes from the Primary Education Committee, sub committee of the Bristol Education Committee

    423. Colston’s Primary School.  It was reported that the Governors of Colston’s Girls’ School had now agreed to raise no objection to the name of ‘Colston’ continuing to be associated with the junior school for the duration of the current lease of the property and so long as the junior school continues so to occupy the present premises.


    • Colston’s Girls School senior continued as a Direct Grant girls grammar school until 1966 when it became an independent fee paying school. It then converted to Academy status in 2008 and continues to be supported by the Merchant Venturers Society as it was during its grammar and independent set ups.
    • As of 1947, Colston’s Girls Junior School becomes the LEA state funded Colston’s Primary School.
    • 1973: Colston’s Primary School tried (and failed due to local resistance) to expand on the site that is now home to Cotham Park Tennis club
    • 2012: Colston’s Primary School converted from a Local Authority School to a Co-operative Academy, thereby receiving money direct from central government via the EFA (Education Funding Agency), and transferring ownership and responsibility for the school buildings to the school from the LEA (Local Education Authority, Bristol City Council). Changing the name was discussed at this time but deemed not the right time to investigate, given the big projects of academisation and school expansion.
    • September 2015: Colston’s Primary School opened a new infants site, Elmgrove, with three form entry and a wider catchment area
    • July 2015: FGB (Full Governing Body meeting) discusses looking into the school name again. Has been unresolved since. (see relevant meeting minutes here)


    Edward Colston

    Edward Colston (2 November 1636 – 11 October 1721) was a Bristol-born English slave trader, merchant and Member of Parliament. Much of his wealth, although used often for philanthropic purposes, was acquired through the trade and exploitation of slaves. Colston became a member of the Royal African Company, which had held the monopoly in Britain on trading in gold, ivory and slaves from 1662. Colston rose rapidly on to the board of the company and became its deputy governor, its most senior executive position, in 1689. He is a divisive figure in Bristolian civil society, viewed by some as an inspirational figure for the city, due to his donations of money to schools and other causes, but, in more recent times as Colston's activities as a major slave trader emerged, many in Bristol and beyond, now regard him as having committed crimes against humanity.


    How is the history of Edward Colston currently covered in the curriculum at our school?

    The school currently teaches units about Bristol's history including slavery and the part Edward Colston played in this as well as his philanthropical contributions towards the prosperity of the city, in years 2, 4 and 5.


    Further reading / watching to help inform your view over whether our school should keep or change its name:

    There was a lot of debate and strong opinion expressed in the press in the spring of 2017 due to the decision to change the name of Colston Hall. The Board of Colston Hall decided to change the hall’s name because it is at odds with their values, they have no historical connection to Edward Colston other than the building is on Colston Street, and they have an opportunity to rebrand in time for the re-opening of the transformed Hall in two years time.

    Colston's (state) Primary school (est. 1947) is in a similar situation to Colston Hall in that it has no direct connection with Edward Colston's philanthropy. It kept the name Colston's because it formerly housed the junior school for Colston's Girls' School 1941-1946. There was some debate at the time as to whether a different name should be chosen to signify its change in status from a school funded in part by the Edward Colston's education endowment fund, to a school funded by the state.

    NB: Colston’s Hall decision to change it’s name happens to co-incide with our school’s timeline for reviewing its own name. We are not reviewing our name because of their decision.

    However, the ensuing reactions and debate after the Hall's announcement is helpful to our consultation because the arguments for and against are similar. In the light of this, please find a selection of articles articulating views for and against the Colston Hall name change, and contemplating the topic of the representation of historical figures citywide, nationwide and globally too …

    We hope you find these leads helpful.

    Please feel free send other articles of interest that we can add to this list during the consultation process to


    Articles / features of relevance since July 2017 ...

    18th August 2017: David Olusoga - The Bristol-based celebrity historian talks about why he challenges the white-washing of British history… and the “pretty weird” relationship the city has with Edward Colston - in The Cable


    In relation to Colston Hall name change ...

    Views in favour of name change

    Rationale for the Colston Hall Name change from the Colston Hall Trustees 'We are not looking to erase history. In fact, we want to embrace our position at the centre of this issue'

    Guardian, 27th April 2017 related to Colston Hall name change - pro name change

    Guardian, 26th February related to Colston Hall name change pledge - pro name change

    Bristol Post, 27th April, pro Colston Hall name change

    Countering Colstons - campaign to decolonise Bristol

    Views against the name change

    Bristol 24/7 - anti Colston Hall name change

    BBC vimeos of Bristolians views over Colston Hall name change - all anti

    Bristol 24/7 - anti Colston Hall name change

    Youtube video: political correctness and the erasure of inconvenient history - Colston Hall

    Articles / features presenting balanced views from both sides of the argument ...

    Guardian, 29th April 2017 related to Colston Hall name change - outlines debate from both sides

    BBC News, 26th April 2017, balanced view of debates surrounding Colston Hall name change

    Telegraph, 26th April, balanced presentation views around Colston Hall name change

    Bristol 24/7: asking Bristolians for their views - mixed opinions

    Essay from Bristol University Student (graduating July 2017) relating to Bristol and Slavery and Edward Colston

    Are Bristol schools that benefitted from the slave trading merchant Edward Colston reluctant to openly acknowledge their connection to him?

    Edward Colston

    Youtube video: Edward Colston - What hides behind his wealth?

    Youtube video: Edward Colston

    Pauline Allen, school governor, in conversation with Stephen Williams, politician and historian

    Main points Stephen had to make:
    1)  Bristol was relatively late in its involvement with the slave trade.  Prior to that, London was the main centre
    2)  Edward Colston was not a slave owner, nor did he have a plantation.  His involvement in the slave trade was to lend money to others who were involved in the slave trade.  (In modern terms, he was a venture capitalist.) The profits he made were then used for the benefit of Bristol citizens (he was a philanthropist).
    3)  Stephen recommends that Edward Colston's statue be moved to a museum, where there could be a detailed explanation about slavery and Bristol's involvement in it.

    Wider discussions over significance of of commemorative names and statues and history as it evolves ...

    Radio 4 Front Row 30th August 2017 - Statues Discussion

    July 4th BBC News: Bristol university Wills Memorial Building keeps 'slave trade' name

    Radio 4 'From our own correspondent' June 3rd - piece about monuments relating to racism and history of slavery and confederate movement and continuing impact today in US

    Stephen Fry comment, 4th April 2016 - talking about the removal of the Cecil Rhodes Statue - summary paraphrase: 'removal of beloved statues for something we now regard as wrong is stupid ... the way to fight colonialism is to reveal and say who he is'


    Relevant factual/historical information

    Information about houses built on slave trade, Bristol Post, 5th May 2017

    The dolphin on the school badge is from Colston’s coat of arms, and is said to represent love, kindness, diligence and speed. It is also thought to represent a dolphin that plugged a hole in Colston’s vessel that was sinking on a return voyage.



    Feasibility of a name change

    Is a name change legally possible?

    Yes. The school would need to get consent from the Education Funding Agency for a name change. The school lawyers report that the process would then be a 'rubber stamp' exercise. Again, any related costs would be covered by the pledged donation outlined above, not the school budget.

    Could the school afford to implement a name change?

     A preliminary estimate of the cost of a name change is between £3,500 and £5,000.

    If governors make a decision to change the name of the school, this cost will not come out of the core school budget. We will cross that bridge if and when we come to it. The governors are confident that they can get donations to cover the associated costs of an agreed name change.

    However, in terms of the matter before us now, governors do not want this to be a financial decision. It is an in principle decision to be made based upon the issues surrounding our identity - split site, confusion with other schools named after Colston, and the moral decision over whether Colston is an appropriate name for our school as we approach our 70th birthday. 


    What do you need to know?

    What are the school's current values?

    What is the relevant history relating to the school and its name? Why is it called Colston's Primary?

    Who is Edward Colston?

    How is the the figure of Edward Colston covered within the school curriculum?

    Further Research and leads around naming of institutions after Edward Colston and other historical figures

    Is changing the school name a feasible prospect in terms of financial and legal constraints?