Call to change the name of Leopold Primary School over similarity to Belgian tyrant

Leopold Primary School has two sites in Hawkshead Road, left, and Brentfield Road

Leopold Primary School has two sites in Hawkshead Road, left, and Brentfield Road - Credit: Archant

Calls are being made to change the name of a primary school in Harlesden because of its connotations to a racist Belgian tyrant.

Ngoma Bishop has contacted Leopold Primary School in Hawkshead Road as well as his local MP Dawn Butler and Brent Council leader Cllr Muhammed Butt to have the name changed.

Mr Bishop, who runs an Ethical Name Change campaign, says the school’s name could come from the Belgian monarch Leopold II, a cousin of Queen Victoria.

However, the school said the name refers to Prince Leopold, the youngest child of Queen Victoria, “who was known for his intellectual capacity and died at the age of 30 in 1884”: “No links to King Leopold II of Belgium have yet been identified.”

Mr Bishop said: “The fact that the school still carries the name Leopold continues to be a source of great moral angst to many residents in the borough, particularly, but not only, those of us of African heritage, as it is indicative of the Belgian monarch Leopold II.

“Leopold was a white supremacist, on whose orders over ten million Africans in the Congo were brutalised, raped, tortured and killed.

“Given that Leopold has been the name of the school since it was established in 1897, it is not an unreasonable assumption that there is an intended connection to the Belgian king.”

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He said there is a large community of Congolese people in north west London

“Even if there is no direct link between Leopold ll and the name of the school, it is clear to us that considering the demographic of the school’s catchment area, the suspicion alone that there is one is more than sufficient cause for a change of name.”

A spokesperson for Leopold Primary School said it is a “deeply important question”: “Over the autumn term, we are planning a substantial engagement of pupils and parents in the history of the school.

“There will be living history boards prominent on both school sites, charting the history of the school. We are committed to inviting our community into an exploration of our school’s history. We enter this process with open minds, without assuming what its outcomes may be and without limiting them in advance.”

Brent Council said it supports the actions of the school.