Immigrant centres, 1969
HLRO HC/CP/1897 (1969)



Immigrant Centres

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 and staffing.

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.

April, 1969.

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