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Teacher aims to create black history national qualification

ON A MISSION: Melissa Lewis-Francis

AS BLACK History Month draws to a close for another year, one young teacher is stepping up a personal crusade to have the study of black history recognised as a national qualification.

Melissa Lewis-Francis has already launched a regional course in the subject, which carries a recognised award. But to turn that award into an official qualification, she has to show there is national demand for her course.

Unsurprisingly, the 32-year-old mum is wading through a lot of red tape. She was at the point of giving up on the entire project until Open College Network, a leading credit-based awarding system, agreed to run a regional course.

She set up her own teaching company – Straight to the Root Education Ltd, several months ago and has already delivered the course to a wide range of recipients, aimed at those aged 14 and over.

“There’s been a lot of interest at local level and I’m sure this would be mirrored nationally if people knew about the course,” explains Melissa, who is also a qualified teacher in business and IT studies. “It is all portfolio-based, there are no exams and it involves 27 hours of teaching.”


It follows a timeline, starting with Asian and African history and includes Darwin’s theory, Africa from a geographical perspective, colonialism and also Egypt. Slavery, black art, literature and music would be included in other levels of the course.

It is currently geared for Level One learners – those who may have been out of formal education for a while – this would be the GCSE equivalent of a D grade or below. However, a Level Two version is also available – which equates to GCSE at levels A* to C. And it can continue up to Level Four, which is a degree equivalent.

Melissa, whose mum originates from Kingston, Jamaica, and her father from Ocho Rios, says she first considered launching the course when she tried to find out about her own identity.

“I found it a massive challenge to find out anything, which made me realise other people must be facing the same problem,” said Melissa, who has a 13-year-old daughter and a son, aged nine.

But she really began to focus on her dream when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
“When I was recovering I had plenty of time to reflect on what I wanted to do in life and my illness gave me a different perspective,” she says.

Her surname Lewis-Francis maybe familiar to many who follow athletics as her brother is none other than the sprinter Mark Lewis-Francis who scooped a gold medal in the 4x100 metres relay in the 2004 Olympics.

But Melissa is anxious not to trade off her bother’s celebrity and says anxiously during our interview: ‘don’t put that right at the beginning of the story will you?”

She added: “There’s only a year between Mark and myself, but I’m still his big sister. At school I was always the academic one, while Mark was such a talented athlete. He’s very supportive of what I’m trying to do and we’ve always remained close.”

Melissa is also trying to find a funding source for her course and has approached Birmingham City Council for financial support.

“It’s all about raising cultural tolerance and pride,” she said. “History can help to eradicate many of today’s problems by giving people a proper perspective on the past.”

For further information please e mail or ring 07583 138635.

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