Life-long learning


“From 1953 to 1955 I attended evening classes where I gained passes in English, Mathematics, Engineering Drawing and Engineering Science in the East Midlands Educational Union Examinations.  Between 1950 and 1953 I also attended evening classes run by the Workers’ Education Association for courses on Youth Leadership and Industrial Psychology.  During the academic year 1967-68 I went to Fircroft College, Selly Oak, Birmingham, where I took a full-time course in Liberal Studies.  In the following twelve months I gained five passes in the ‘O’ Level of the General Certificate of Education, and was subsequently accepted as a student on the Trent Polytechnic three years’ teacher training course which ran from 1969 to 1972.  My main subject on this course was Mathematics.”  George’s CV.


Education and Training


In 1942 George was studying electrical engineering at Kingston Technical School in Jamaica.  In 1944 he joined the RAF, and received further training as an electrician, as a radar operator, and as a metal worker.  Once he was settled as a civilian in this country he worked as an electrical engineer.  In his spare time, he was always involved in furthering his skills in order to play his part in various political and community activities in the most effective way, including studying at evening classes.



Evening class courses


In the 1960s he decided to make a career change, to become a mathematics teacher.  In order to obtain the qualifications required for a teacher training course he gained a place at Fircroft College, Selly Oak, Birmingham.


Fircroft College


Fircroft College is a specialist adult residential college based in Selly Oak, Birmingham, England.
The college was founded by George Cadbury Junior, son of George Cadbury Senior, in 1908 and offers over 150 short residential courses throughout the year, most of which last three days.  Fircroft was founded with a strong ethos of social justice which continues to this day, with many learners coming to Fircroft with no or few prior qualifications.  The short course programme covers subject areas such as English, Maths, ICT, Gardening, Personal and Social Development, Counselling and Mentoring.  These courses are aimed at helping adults improve their skills and confidence and work towards reaching their own personal or work goals.  The college also runs a number of professional short courses and qualifications aimed at adults working or involved in the voluntary and community sectors.  As well as the short course programme, there is a 30-week Access to Higher Education programme for adults wishing to progress to university - this course has non-residential as well as residential places available.



Fircroft College, Selly Oak 1967 intake.

George is fourth from the left on the second row from the front.


GCE qualifications



He was then offered a place at the then Nottingham Trent Polytechnic (now Nottingham Trent University), where he qualified as a mathematics teacher in 1972.


Teaching certificate and DES letter



Teaching and beyond


George in the 1972s


He taught at the Robert Mellors Secondary School Arnold, Nottingham (which later became Arnold Hill Comprehensive School) until April 1982, when he took early retirement.


Throughout his life in the UK, even when he was engaged in formal training and further education, he was always adding to his organisational skills using self-help resources.  Notable examples such as accounting techniques, company, licensing, and immigration laws were crucial in the setting up and management of the Afro-Caribbean Centre. He knew how to negotiate the lease for the building and licensing applications with the local authority, to draw up Articles of Association, to understand stocktaking methods, to do the accounts, including HMRC returns, and to draft rules of membership.


He advised other groups and organisations on these matters. 


He kept up to date with the changing ramifications of immigration law. He knew exactly which documents, letters and other information Jamaican people living here would need to provide for various situations. He helped an enormous number of people with matters including immigration and citizenship.


These included how to make successful applications for Temporary Leave to Remain, Indefinite Leave to Remain, British Citizenship and British passports.


When friends and friends in Jamaica wanted to come here for short visits including attending weddings, christenings or funerals, they would first have to apply for visas at the British High Commission in Kingston, Jamaica. More often than not such requests would be refused, and it was commonly thought that such refusals were simply based on the desire of the government of the day to minimise number of people coming here.


George became the go-to person to step in and advise his compatriots here on how to reverse such refusals, and I cannot remember any occasion on which this advice did not result in success.


Other examples of help he could give, because he learned the rules, were advice for people who were being divorced, taking out loans or hire purchase agreements, dealing with debt, or having difficulty in negotiating their children’s rights in educational matters.  Such advice was not just for his fellow Jamaicans. He was happy to help people from the wider Caribbean, Asia, and Africa, as well as white UK citizens.


He also read widely in fields such as psychology, mental and physical health, and, of course politics.