DES Circular 7/65 (1965)

In this circular, the DES set out advice to schools on the education of the 'increasing numbers of immigrants from Commonwealth and other countries overseas' who had recently arrived in the country.

See also DES Survey 13 (1971) The Education of Immigrants

The text of DES Circular 7/65 was prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 7 March 2020.

Circular 7/65 (1965)
The education of immigrants

Department of Education and Science
London: 1965
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

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Circular 7/65
(14th June, 1965)

To Local Education Authorities and certain other bodies.


All communications should be addressed to the



1. The Secretary of State has had under consideration the many problems that have faced the education service in recent years by reason of the arrival in this country of increasing numbers of immigrants from Commonwealth and other countries overseas.

He is conscious that in some areas the scale and seriousness of these problems have risen sharply, and that local education authorities and schools have had to deal with situations that are new in their experience. He wishes first to pay tribute to the work that has already been done, and particularly to the achievements of the teachers who have faced and accepted the challenge and turned it to constructive ends.

2. The main purpose of this circular is to consider the nature of the educational problems that arise and to give such advice and assistance as is possible. The Secretary of State believes that the implications of the situation may even now not be fully appreciated; it is of great importance to the country as a whole that immigrant children, who have the right under the Education Act 1944 to education according to their age, ability and aptitude, should be enabled to develop their talents and abilities to the full, that they should enjoy all the opportunities available to other children, and

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that they should be given a knowledge and understanding of our way of life which will enable them to regard. themselves, and to be regarded, as full members of the community to which they each make their own contribution. It is equally important that adult immigrants, many of whom are likely to stay in this country for long periods, if not permanently, should be given some knowledge of English language and background, so that at the least they can acquire an understanding of the social and cultural influences that mould the society in which their children will be brought up.



3. The needs of immigrant children in their early days in school are often as much social and medical as educational. They may be ignorant of even the most elementary social habits and customs in this country, bewildered at the sudden change in their lives, and in need of reassurance. Arrangements should also be made through the school health service for them to be medically examined as soon as possible after admission to school, and for medical supervision to be continued for as long as may be necessary.

Teaching of English

4. From the beginning the major educational task is the teaching of English. Where a school contains a number of children with little or no knowledge of English, it is desirable to arrange one or more special reception classes in which they may learn English as quickly and as effectively as possible. At first the children are likely to need to attend these classes almost full-time, but the Secretary of State wishes to emphasise that on suitable occasions the children should join from the beginning in the normal social life of the school and gradually take their place in the ordinary classes as their command of English allows. There is a danger that some children, who quickly acquire fluency in the spoken language, do not in fact understand as much as may appear, and may find difficulty in absorbing new ideas expressed in English; it is therefore important that the progress of all pupils who have had to learn English as a second language should continue to be

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carefully watched after they have joined an ordinary class, and any necessary extra help given to them. This is particularly important with pupils in secondary schools, since the vocabulary required is larger and more complex, the subjects are covered more rapidly and in a more specialised way and the difficulty of recovering lost ground is correspondingly greater. Many children may indeed require occasional special help throughout their school lives; peripatetic specialist teachers may be able to give valuable help in this way. Children whose English, although fluent, does not conform to the pattern normally used in this country may also need special attention. An increased provision of suitable books and teaching equipment, including audio-visual aids, will almost certainly be needed.

Commonwealth Teaching

5. Successful assimilation of immigrant children depends a great deal in the early stages on the teacher's knowledge and understanding of the children's heritage and of the religious, social and cultural habits and traditions that have influenced their upbringing. Sympathetic handling of the children, based on a realistic understanding of the adjustments that they have to make to a new and completely unfamiliar environment, can do much to help them. At the same time, the presence of immigrant children in the school can be effectively used to encourage other children to learn more about the history and geography of the Commonwealth and other countries from which the immigrant children have come. The schools have much to gain, too, by encouraging children from overseas to take an active part in lessons which are concerned with their own countries. The Department's own pamphlet. 'Schools and the Commonwealth', issued in 1961, and its successor now in course of preparation, may be useful in this connection. Details of some of the other sources of information about the Commonwealth are set out in the Appendix to this Circular, and further information may be obtained from the Department of Education and Science about the Commonwealth Course for Teachers, which is held every Easter, and about other courses for teachers on Education for International Understanding.

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The Teacher Quota

6. The Secretary of State recognises that in schools with a substantial proportion of pupils of differing backgrounds, educational standards and command of English, the prime need is for smaller classes and more teachers. In announcing to local education authorities in Circular 1/65 their teacher quotas for January 1966, he indicated that he would be prepared to consider requests by individual authorities for adjustments to their quota where they found it necessary to make special staffing arrangements in schools serving districts with a substantial immigrant population. For this purpose, some schools employ part-time teachers, who fall outside the scope of the quota, in addition to their regular staffing complement, and this practice has much to commend it.

Assistance to Teachers

7. Teachers in such schools must be relieved of as much as possible of the non-teaching work of the school, and the Secretary of State looks to authorities to appoint extra welfare assistants who can deal with social training and other practical problems, arrange for medical examinations and help to forge a link between the school and the parents; additional clerical assistance may also be desirable.

Spreading the Children

8. It is inevitable that, as the proportion of immigrant children in a school or class increases, the problems will become more difficult to solve, and the chances of assimilation more remote. How far any given proportion of immigrant children can be absorbed with benefit to both sides depends on, among other things, the composition of the immigrant group and the number of immigrant children who are proficient in English; the dividing line cannot be precisely defined. Experience suggests, however, that, apart from unusual difficulties (such as a high proportion of non-English-speakers), up to a fifth of immigrant children in any group fit in with reasonable ease, but that, if the proportion goes over about one third either in the school as a whole or in any one class, serious strains arise. It is therefore desirable that the catchment areas of schools should, wherever possible, be arranged to avoid undue concentrations

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of immigrant children. Where this proves impracticable simply because the school serves an area which is occupied largely by immigrants, every effort should be made to disperse the immigrant children round a greater number of schools and to meet such problems of transport as may arise. It is important for the success of such measures that the reasons should be carefully explained beforehand to the parents of both the immigrant and the other children, and their cooperation obtained. It will be helpful if the parents of non-immigrant children can see that practical measures have been taken to deal with the problems in the schools, and that the progress of their own children is not being restricted by the undue preoccupation of the teaching staff with the linguistic and other difficulties of immigrant children.

9. Occasions may arise when dispersal measures of this nature are not practicable, or seem in a particular case to involve disadvantages which outweigh the benefits. They should nevertheless be given serious consideration, since it is to everyone's disadvantage if the problems within a school are allowed to become so great that they cause a decline in the general standard of education provided.

10. It is a common experience of authorities that once immigrants have begun to live in an area, they are quickly joined by members of their own families and by fellow-countrymen who wish to settle in the same neighbourhood. It is therefore important that as soon as there are indications that immigrants are coming in to the area, even though the number of school children among them may not at first be very great, the authority should decide their policy and make plans for dealing with the rapid and substantial influx of children which may follow. Only if this is done at an early stage, before the problems become acute, will there be a reasonable chance of avoiding by one means or another undue pressure on particular schools. For this purpose, there should be standing arrangements with the local housing and health authorities for any information reaching them about changes in the size or composition of the immigrant population to be passed immediately to the local education authority; such arrangements might with advantage be extended to include local liaison and consultative committees where these exist, and the leaders of the immigrant communities themselves, who are likely to be the first to know of new arrivals among their fellow-countrymen.

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Adult Immigrants

11. The Secretary of State considers that even though adult immigrants may not intend to settle permanently in this country, they should have an induction course in English ways of living and learn to speak English intelligibly. He believes that it is the function of the further education service rather than of employers to provide suitable courses. The Government hope that employers will give all possible encouragement to their employees to attend these courses. According to individual circumstances this could take the form of granting time off to attend classes, helping with the payment of fees or, when numbers are sufficient to form a group, providing accommodation for a class on the firm's premises. The Ministry of Labour and the National Assistance Board will help to bring the classes provided by local education authorities to the notice of of immigrants; copies of publicity leaflets should be sent to the local employment exchange and to the area office(s) of the National Assistance Board. It may be possible to display notices in other public places, and authorities may also find it helpful to seek the active cooperation of the leaders of local immigrant communities and associations in making courses known to their members and in encouraging them to attend.

12. In planning courses to meet the needs of immigrants, authorities will no doubt consider making direct contact with the Personnel Officers of large undertakings and bodies representing the employer and employee sides in industry and commerce (e.g. any local employers' association and trade union branches). They should also make special efforts to reach the mothers in the immigrant communities and to provide for them education in the English language and in English social standards at times and in places that will encourage good attendance. It is recognised that this may be difficult, but it is of particular importance that it should be done.

13. The Secretary of state believes that youth clubs and other organisations of young people may have opportunities of bringing young adult immigrants into their activities and of offering them support, help and advice on the everyday difficulties that they are likely to meet. He hopes that those concerned will consider what contribution they can make in this or other ways.

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14. Many of the difficulties and the opportunities which face teachers of immigrants, both children and adults, are considered in the Department's pamphlet, "English for Immigrants", which gives advice on general problems as well as on the teaching of English to both children and adults. In a wider context the education of immigrants was the subject of the second report of the Commonwealth Immigrants Advisory Council*, which was appointed to advise the Home Secretary on matters affecting the welfare of Commonwealth immigrants and their integration into the community. The third report** of the same Council, which dealt with the employment of young immigrants, emphasised again, the importance to them of an adequate knowledge of English, particularly spoken English. The Secretary of State commends these documents to the attention of authorities and teachers.

Teacher Training, Conferences and Research

15. Colleges of Education can be expected to make their students aware of the effects on schools of the increasing numbers of immigrant children and of the problems and opportunities with which the teachers in such schools are faced. This will be of particular importance in areas where students are likely to undertake teaching practice in schools containing immigrant children.

16. The Secretary of State would also like to see an extension of the provision already made by some university Institutes of Education and by a number of local education authorities for talks, conferences and short courses for teachers of immigrant children, in particular for those without previous experience of the work. H.M. Inspectors are ready to advise and assist and will continue to collect and disseminate information about the methods used successfully to teach English to those to whom it is a foreign language. For some teachers, attendance at a longer course will be both desirable and practicable.

*Second Report by the Commonwealth Immigrants Advisory Council February. 1964. Cmnd. 2266

**September 1964. Cmnd. 2458

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The University of London Institute of Education already runs a one-year course, leading to a diploma in the teaching of English as a foreign language. As an experiment, the Institute is holding this autumn a one-term course which will be concerned with the practical classroom problems facing teachers of immigrant children. Similar courses elsewhere, dealing with the teaching of English and the general religious, social and cultural background of the immigrant communities, may prove desirable, especially if they can be linked with facilities for research into the teaching problems involved.

17. A preliminary enquiry aimed at identifying the most pressing of these problems, and at suggesting ways of improving the teaching of English and other subjects to immigrants, is to be undertaken this year by the University of Essex under the auspices of the Schools Council. It is hoped that this will lead to further research being undertaken on more detailed aspects of the problem.


18. It is significant that this circular contains references to a number of people and services that are not part of the education service. The education of immigrant children and adults is indeed but one part of a much bigger problem covering also the fields of health, welfare, employment and social relationships; the Government believe that a solution can be found only if those concerned with any aspect of the problem work together to overcome or forestall the difficulties that may arise. The National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants, established in 1964 following the recommendation of the Second Report of the Commonwealth Immigrants Advisory Council, has already done much to foster local and regional consultative committees representing many different interests and offering to local education authorities and others a forum for the exchange of information, ideas and experience*. The Secretary of State believes that local education authorities will welcome the opportunity to work closely with

*Further information may be obtained from the Advisory Officer, National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants 33 Sackville Street, London, W.1.

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these committees and to support in any way that lies in their power the development of coordinated services for immigrants, whether these are provided by local authorities or by voluntary agencies. He hopes that they will be ready to take the initiative in organising local and regional conferences to help to spread knowledge of the problems and of ways of meeting them.

19. In the last resort it is the attitude of individuals that matters most; only if this is based on knowledge and understanding on both sides will it be possible to build an integrated society.

(Herbert Andrew)

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The following are some of the bodies from whom information about the Commonwealth can be obtained:

The Commonwealth Institute, Kensington High street, London W.8.

The Commonwealth Institute offers to schools and colleges a variety of services and teaching aids designed to assist cultural study of the Commonwealth. For those who can visit the Institute there are visual lessons in the exhibition galleries and the daily film programmes in the cinema. For schools and colleges in the United Kingdom the Institute can provide lecturers and organise study conferences. Publications and visual aids of all types (except films) can be supplied and the Institute offers an advisory service and can help with suggestions about project studies and the supporting material required.

The Royal Commonwealth Society, 18 Northumberland Avenue London, W.C.2.

The Royal Commonwealth Society has a loan service of visual aids on the Commonwealth, including film strips, charts, maps and photographs produced by official and commercial organisations which may be borrowed on payment of postage both ways. A catalogue is available on request. The Society can give help with the provision of lecturers on Commonwealth subjects and it organises a summer school at Oxford or Cambridge each year for which a certain number of bursaries are awarded to enable teachers to attend. An annual study Conference for sixth formers in the London area is held during the Christmas holidays and the Society also organises a Commonwealth-wide essay competition for boys and girls up to the age of 19 years.

The Central Office of Information, Hercules Road, Westminster Bridge Road, London, S.E.1.

The Central Office of Information produces a 32-page pictorial magazine entitled 'Commonwealth Today'. It depicts the richly varied everyday life of the people of the Commonwealth and is available from H.M. Stationery Office on an annual subscription basis. A wide variety of films about the Commonwealth are available from the Central Film Library and a comprehensive catalogue can be obtained from the Library at Government Buildings, Bromyard Avenue, Acton, London, W.3.

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The Central Office of Information has also produced a special series of picture sets about Commonwealth territories for the use of schools, colleges and youth clubs. Each set consists of six panels containing a map and up to 25 photographs simply and factually captioned to assist both teacher and pupil. The sets are available on loan from any regional office of the Central Office of Information.

The Educational Foundation for Visual Aids, 33 Queen Anne Street, London, W.1.

The Educational Foundation for Visual Aids maintains a library of films and film strips, a number of which are suitable for classroom teaching about the Commonwealth. Details can be obtained from the Foundation.

The British Council, 65 Davies Street, London, W.1.

Colleges, schools and other educational establishments may wish, as part of some Commonwealth study to invite a young citizen of the area being studied to visit them and to contribute to their discussions. The Area Officers of the Council in London and most of the larger provincial towns will be prepared to receive enquiries and to do their best to arrange suitable contacts.

School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, W.C.1.

The school provides short courses, one-day conferences and lecturers on cultural, political, economic and religious subjects relating to various regions and countries of Asia and Africa. Details can be obtained from the Registrar on request.

Council for Education in World Citizenship, 25 Charles street, London, W.1.

The study of Commonwealth topics is included among various services which the Council offers to schools. Films, film strips and photographic exhibitions are available and the Council can also provide speakers from Commonwealth countries and arrange inter-school conferences on subjects related to Commonwealth study.

London Offices of Commonwealth Countries

Many countries of the Commonwealth have offices in London which can provide schools or teachers with information and in some instances have library facilities which can be made available to students.

Other useful addresses are given in the pamphlet 'Schools and Commonwealth' issued by the Department of Education and Science.