New film on black supplementary schools available to view on the GPI website

June 2, 2021

The latest film about the George Padmore Institute (GPI) archive collections is on black supplementary schools. Roxy Harris, current chair of the GPI, talks about teaching at the George Padmore Black Supplementary School and black parent Victor Sylvester talks about the Albertina Sylvester Black Supplementary School.

Black supplementary schools arose out of racist education policies in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s. Hundreds of Caribbean children were wrongly classed as ‘educationally subnormal’ and sent to ‘special’ schools, while, for others, the system simply had no expectation of academic ability, effectively ensuring black children performed poorly. Dissatisfied with the quality of education their children were receiving, black parents, teachers and activists collaborated to set up supplementary schools which were open in the evenings or on a Saturday. Children were taught subjects to support their learning at state school, but were also helped with issues such as self-esteem.

The George Padmore and Albertina Sylvester Black Supplementary Schools were started circa 1969 by John La Rose and others in north London. The George Padmore School taught older children and operated out of John La Rose’s own home on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays for seven years. The Albertina Sylvester School was for younger children, with Saturday morning classes running initially out of Albertina Sylvester's house.

The film on black supplementary schools will be available to view on the Discover page.

To find out more about supplementary schools in both the Black Education Movement and National Association of Supplementary Schools (NASS) archives, visit the archive page here.


Roxy Harris is a founder Trustee (1991) of the George Padmore Institute and is its current Chair. He was a member of the Black Parents Movement, played a major part in the International Bookfairs of Radical Black and Third World Books, was a member of the New Cross Massacre Action Committee, and for many years was a co-ordinator and teacher in the George Padmore Supplementary School. He has taught in secondary schools, further education colleges, adult education institutes and in universities. He has authored and edited numerous books and other publications. He is of Sierra Leonean descent.

Victor Sylvester has an HND in Electronic Engineering. He has worked for various companies, fixing electronic typewriters’ circuit boards by changing the relevant faulty components.  During the initial PC revolution, he was employed as a service and network engineer for many years, before joining a merchant bank in the City of London where he is still employed. He obtained an MSc in Internet Security in 2001.

Photo of Roxy Harris
                                                                   Roxy Harris
Photo of Victor Sylvester
                                                                    Victor Sylvester

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