SELECT COMMITTEE ON RACE RELATIONS AND IMMIGRATION
Memorandum by the Department of Education and Science
1. During oral evidence on 13th February, the Department undertook
to provide the Select Committee with further information on Immigrant
Centres. This paper is based on replies by H.M. Inspectors (in February)
to a questionnaire about the education of immigrants in the areas
of local education authorities in which they exceed two per cent of
the maintained school population, (i.e. the 47 authorities listed
in an appendix to the Department's previous evidence).
2. The task of all education authorities faced with an influx of immigrant
pupils is to enable them as quickly as possible to play a full part
in ordinary school life. It is necessary first to ensure that their
grasp of English language and customs is sufficient to enable them
to benefit from the school curriculum. The normal method of helping
pupils with severe learning handicaps is to withdraw them from classes
and give them separate instruction in small groups, and this is widely
practised with immigrants who can speak little or no English. The
establishment of immigrant centres is an extension of this practice
which brings children together either from several schools, or before
they enter a school, and concentrate resources and specially trained
or gifted teachers in one place.
3. It appears from the replies to the questionnaire that about 50
immigrant centres at present operate in 26 areas. In addition three
other authorities use remedial or adult education centres to teach
English to immigrant children. Thus well over half the authorities
with appreciable concentrations of immigrant pupils use centres as
a means of supplementing special instruction in the schools.
4. Five authorities use their centres to provide induction courses
for children before they enter school. Most, however, use them as
language centres, to which children may be referred after they have
been registered in school. A few centres appear to be used wholly
or partly for administrative purposes, to receive new immigrants,
allocate them to schools and give health checks.
5. Induction courses vary in length. In one case the period is as
short as a week, but is followed up where necessary by referral to
a language centre. The other authorities providing induction courses
keep the children long enough to secure reasonable fluency in English
and confine special language instruction afterwards to withdrawal
classes at school.
6. The most common practice at language centres is that children attend
them full-time. But one authority admits children for an hour a day,
another for four sessions a week and several for half-a-week. In this
way the children combine attendance at a centre with involvement in
ordinary school life. Perhaps to secure the same end, eleven language
centres are attached to the schools which most immigrant children
in the area attend. Whether attendance is part-time or full-time,
children will normally be retained in language centres until their
English is good enough for ordinary school lessons.
7. Most immigrant centres provide courses for both seniors and juniors,
but eight restrict courses to seniors. Another admits juniors over
nine. Only one authority confines attendance at centres to juniors.
The reason for these differences is likely to be found in the local
situation: the size of the centre, the availability of specialist
teachers to serve there, or the ability of primary and secondary schools
to offer facilities for withdrawal classes in terms of accommodation
8. One unusual arrangement should be mentioned. This is to use the
language centre exclusively to train teachers and to store specialist
books and equipment. All special teaching of immigrant pupils in this
area is carried out in withdrawal classes.
9. In the second phase of the urban programme nine authorities have
so far submitted proposals relating to immigrant centres. Two are
seeking assistance towards the running costs of centres already built
and five wish to extend existing centres. Two authorities are proposing
to build their first centre. The trend towards this type of provision
seems likely, therefore, to be maintained.