The Black Education Movement (BEM) (1965-1988) campaigned to secure improvements in the education of black children who faced a prejudiced and inadequate national system. The movement also organised the setting up of supplementary schools, investigated Educationally Sub-Normal (ESN) schooling and formed BEM Associations to debate education issues.
The BEM collection at the George Padmore Institute (GPI) includes materials relating to the Anti-banding Campaign 1969-1970. Haringey Council in north London proposed to 'band' or 'stream' pupils in its schools by academic ability, with the purpose of maximising the performance of students. However, people were suspicious of the frequent emphasis placed on the high proportion of immigrants within the borough and a leaked report, ‘Haringey Comprehensive Schools’(January 1969) – dubbed the Doulton report after the author – sparked widespread opposition when it made the prejudiced claim that academic standards were lower in schools where the majority of children were of Caribbean heritage (West Indian was the term used then).
Public meetings were held across London and demonstrations were organised. Particular attention was paid to informing parents about what was happening to their children in schools. The West Indian Standing Conference (WISC) and the North London West Indian Association (NLWIA) led the protests against the banding campaign, acting as intermediaries between the police and the black community.
Following the protests, the Council delayed its proposals on banding. A high-profile campaign continued, with the organisers refuting each of the claims in the Doulton report. This resulted in the Conservative Council postponing its banding proposals before being defeated in the May 1970 elections.
To find out more about the Anti-Banding Campaign and the other parts of the BEM collection including: Educationally Sub-Normal (ESN) Schools; the Caribbean Education and Community Workers Association (CECWA) and the Black Supplementary School Movement (BSSM), visit the archive page here.
To view a film produced by the GPI on black supplementary schools visit the Discover page.
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Anti-banding Campaign in Haringey circa 1969