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Clive House at school in Newport to be renamed

Written by on October 13, 2020

A house at a boarding school in Newport named after Clive of India will been renamed due to controversy over the historical figure.

Haberdashers’ Adams said Clive House will instead be named after war poet Wilfred Owen, who lived in Oswestry, in September next year. It comes as they revealed their new fifth house – due to admit students next year – would be named in memory of Dr Alfa Saadu, who died from coronavirus.

Debate started

A debate had been started over whether Robert Clive, who lived near Market Drayton, should continue to represent the school in light of his actions in India.

Past and present members of the school raised their concerns in light of the Black Lives Matter movement sparked by the death of George Floyd in the United States.

Phil North, head of Clive House, said “Shropshire-born Wilfred Owen was a compassionate and forward-thinking man who saw the enemy as human beings and was outraged by the suffering of the young men around him.

“I’m very happy that the school community has chosen to honour his memory and look forward to leading Owen House from September 2021.”

A consultation had been launched by education chiefs with 830 responding to a questionnaire – with those against the name citing his ill-treatment of Indians.

The controversial military officer – and East India Trading Company official – waged battles in India and established the military and political supremacy of the company in Bengal.

Past and presents students argued it was “no longer appropriate” to have a house named after him due to his time as a British military leader, with the change acting as a “catalyst” for growth and learning.

Arguments in favour of keeping the name of Clive House said his views “reflected the times” and insisted British history should “not be selectively erased” by the school.

Another argued education leaders should be focusing their efforts on improving the behaviour of all members rather than renaming, which would be an “act of tokenism”.

A statement from the Senior Leadership Team at the school, during the outcome of the consultation results, said: “As a school, we have a particular role to play in fostering and developing the views of successive generations of young people.

‘Opportunity to educate’

“A name-change offers us an opportunity to educate our pupils about changing values, about how every generation reconsiders the actions of its predecessors, recognising that some have been overlooked and others over-rewarded.

“By renaming Clive House, we believe that we will be contributing, in a small but useful way, to recognising and redressing some of the injustices inflicted on ethnic minority communities and their predecessors.

“The strong sense of anger at historical and continuing injustice shown in significant parts of these communities is not something we should choose to ignore.

“A house renaming is a symbolic act which both illustrates our sympathy for those expressing this anger and shows how we are playing our part in helping to eradicate racist attitudes.”

Other houses at the school include Darwin House, named after Shrewsbury-born Charles Darwin, Talbot House after Earl of Shrewsbury Sir John Talbot and Webb House after Dawley-born Captain Matthew Webb.

Leaders at the school said they would not be “erasing” any of the school’s history – with documentation and references to Clive House being retained as the curriculum is reviewed.

It comes after a vote was held by Shropshire Council over whether they should remove a statue of Robert Clive from Shrewsbury town centre – with leaders voting in favour of keeping it.

Fifth house

A new fifth house at the school has been named in tribute to Dr Alfa Saadu – named Saadu House – in tribute to the NHS worker who died after returning to help fight against the pandemic.

The healthcare worker received the accolade following his commitment to the NHS. He retired in 2017 but returned due to Covid-19 in late March which he died from.

Dr Saadu, who attended the school from 1963 to 1970 as a boarder, went on to study medicine and became medical director at Ealing Hospital and later deputy medical director at the London North West University NHS Trust.

Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, the former president of the Nigerian senate, said: “Late Dr Saadu provided leadership for our people in the diaspora as he served for many years as chairman of the Kwara State Association of Nigeria (Kwasang UK). Back at home, he was a community leader and traditional office holder as Galadima of Pategi. He will be sorely missed.”

Dr Alfa Saadu in his days at the school.
Dr Alfa Saadu in his days at the school.

The new house is required as the school is expanding and will be welcoming an additional 30 pupils into Year 7 each year starting in September next year.

The new Year 7 class will be joined by Sixth Form pupils and together they will be the founding members of the new Saadu House.

Headmaster Gary Hickey said: “Our school has stood for nearly 400 years and I can’t think of a more fitting way to introduce a new house into 21st Century Adams than by honouring one of our own who gave so much in the service of others.

“He is a worthy role model for our young people, and I know this will be universally applauded by those who knew him from school.”


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