The RSA Supplementary Schools Investigation

November 21, 2014 in Blog, Briefing note, Open letters by Gus John

Reading Aloud to Children

This comment is in response to a request from the Royal Society of Arts to join a group of 20 ‘experts’ and advise on a new ‘investigation’ into Supplementary Schools.

To place my comments in context, let me summarise the extent of my involvement with the Supplementary Schools movement.

I was one of the co-founders of the first supplementary school in Oxford in 1965, based in a community hall along Cowley Road in East Oxford. I was then a friar at Blackfriars Priory in St Giles and a theological student there and at the university. I was also the education secretary and Chair of the Education Sub-committee of what would today be called the Oxford Race Equality Council, but was then named the Oxford Council for Racial Integration.

In 1968, I started the first Saturday/Supplementary School in Handsworth, Birmingham, with a group of colleagues, some of them African-Caribbean students at Birmingham University. A major issue for us then was teachers’ dismissive attitude towards and wrongful classification of the home languages of African-Caribbean students (something about which I have written extensively since; cf John 2006: Taking a Stand – Gus John Speaks on education, race, social action and civil unrest 1980-2005).

Those students were generally thought to be speaking ‘bad’ English, with the capacity neither to make themselves understood, nor to understand their students and white English peers. Teachers therefore tended to assume that such students were academically backward and incapable of high attainment. Read the rest of this entry →

CEN releases its annual report

October 15, 2012 in Blog, Briefing note by Gus John

Communities Empowerment Network (CEN) has spent another year supporting vulnerable children and their often bewildered parents in the face of institutional practices in schooling that are often demeaning, unfair, discriminatory and damaging to the life chances and well-being of children and to the confidence of parents and families in the schooling system.

This year’s Annual Report (covering the period from April 2011 to May 2012) provides details both of the range and extent of the interventions CEN is called upon to make and of the disproportionality of exclusions involving African and African Caribbean school students. It is now an all too familiar story and one that has a history of which the entire nation should be ashamed. But, rather than looking at the systemic reasons for the continuing over-representation of African heritage students in exclusion statistics, the Government is hell bent on removing the only recourse they and their parents have to an independent scrutiny of headteachers’ exclusion decisions.

As the report points out, even under the former regime that pre-dated the Education Act 2011 which took effect in September 2012, only a very few exclusion decisions were overturned with a direction from the Independent Appeals Panel that the student be either reinstated within the excluding school or assisted by the school to find an alternative place elsewhere. Read the rest of this entry →

Briefing note to Grenada’s Government

August 17, 2010 in Briefing note, Gus talks by Gus John

The following briefing note was sent to Senator the Honourable Nazim Burke,  Minister of Finance for the Government of Grenada, on August 17th, 2010.

I was encouraged by your presentation at the Diaspora Conference a couple weeks ago and, as promised, I wish to set out some proposals for your further consideration.

There is a number of ways in which the Diaspora currently engage and could engage with the development of our country, some of which you began to address in your presentation.  The first and most obvious is remittances.


Sending remittances home has been part of the Diaspora’s continued involvement with immediate and extended family ever since the first Grenadian left to find work abroad.  Many of us have relatives who in earlier generations worked on the Panama Canal, in the oilfields of South Trinidad, with the Lago Oil Company in Aruba and Curacao, in the sugar and tobacco industries in Cuba and in mining and forestry in Guyana, long before mass migration to Britain and the USA in the 1950s and after. Such remittances have contributed to the Grenadian economy and to national development in several ways, e.g:

  • By providing disposable income to relatives and helping to relieve poverty;
  • By providing goods and commodities for domestic use and for farming/fishing;
  • By supporting small businesses (grocers and hardware merchants) in local villages and towns through the purchasing power of the recipients of remittances;
  • By funding the schooling and education of the children of the recipients of remittances, especially in vocational training and tertiary education;
  • By sending funds home for the maintenance, repair/extension/refurbishment of their former homes;
  • By ‘returning home’ and building new homes;
  • By starting new businesses on returning home;

To be anecdotal for a moment, my father worked with Lago in Aruba for six years prior to returning home and building a new and larger house for his growing family.  He also bought lands in the Concord Mountain which he cultivated until Hurricane Janet wrecked the country and caused people like him to dig up roots once again and seek employment and a reliable and sustainable income in the UK.  Many of his fellow workers at Lago also built houses and started small businesses on returning to Grenada, some buying and operating the old style, open-sides buses; some opening grocery or hardware stores and others working as builders. Read the rest of this entry →