DES Circular 10/65 (1965)
In this circular, Harold Wilson's Labour government asked local education authorities to submit plans for reorganising their schools on comprehensive lines.
This request was later effectively cancelled by the Conservatives' Circular 10/70 and then reinstated by Labour's Circular 4/74.
Circular 10/65 was prepared for the web by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 21 June 2009.
Circular 10/65 (1965)
The organisation of secondary education
Department of Education and Science
To Local Education Authorities and the Governors of Direct Grant, Voluntary Aided and Special Agreement Schools.
Department of Education and Science
All communications should be addressed to the Permanent Under-Secretary of State
THE ORGANISATION OF SECONDARY EDUCATION
1. It is the Government's declared objective to end selection at eleven plus and to eliminate separatism in secondary education. The Government's policy has been endorsed by the House of Commons in a motion passed on 21 January 1965:
'That this House, conscious of the need to raise educational standards at all levels, and regretting that the realisation of this objective is impeded by the separation of children into different types of secondary schools, notes with approval the efforts of local authorities to reorganise secondary education on comprehensive lines which will preserve all that is valuable in grammar school education for those children who now receive it and make it available to more children; recognises that the method and timing of such reorganisation should vary to meet local needs; and believes that the time is now ripe for a declaration of national policy.'The Secretary of State accordingly requests local education authorities, if they have not already done so, to prepare and submit to him plans for reorganising secondary education in their areas on comprehensive lines. The purpose of this Circular is to provide some central guidance on the methods by which this can be achieved.
II Main forms of comprehensive organisation
2. There are a number of ways in which comprehensive education may be organised. While the essential needs of the children do not vary greatly from one area to another, the views of individual authorities, the distribution of population and the nature of existing schools will inevitably dictate different solutions in different areas. It is important that new schemes build on the foundation of present achievements and preserve what is best in existing schools.
3. Six main forms of comprehensive organisation have so far emerged from experience and discussion:
(i) The orthodox comprehensive school with an age range of 11-18NB The terms 'junior' and 'senior' refer throughout this Circular to the lower and upper secondary schools in two-tier systems of secondary education.
4. The most appropriate system will depend on local circumstances and an authority may well decide to adopt more than one form of organisation in the area for which it is responsible. Organisations of types (i), (ii), (v) and (vi) produce schools which are fully comprehensive in character. On the other hand an organisation of type (iii) or (iv) is not fully comprehensive in that it involves the separation of children of differing aims and aptitudes into different schools at the age of 13 or 14. Given the limitations imposed by existing buildings such schemes are acceptable as interim solutions, since they secure many of the advantages of comprehensive education and in some areas offer the most satisfactory method of bringing about reorganisation at an early date. But they should be regarded only as an interim stage in development towards a fully comprehensive secondary organisation.
5. Against this general background, the Secretary of State wishes to make certain comments on each of the systems described in paragraph 3:
(i) Orthodox comprehensive schools 11 to 18 (see paragraph 3(i))
6. There is now a considerable volume of experience of all-through comprehensive schools; and it is clear that they can provide an effective and educationally sound secondary organisation. If it were possible to design a new pattern of secondary education without regard to existing buildings, the all-through comprehensive school would in many respects provide the simplest and best solution. There are therefore strong arguments for its adoption wherever circumstances permit.
7. In practice, however, circumstances will usually not permit, since the great majority of post-war schools and of those now being built are designed as separate secondary schools and are too small to be used as all-through comprehensive schools, There is of course some scope for building new schools of this type; and it should be borne in mind that such schools need not be as large as was once thought necessary to produce a sixth form of economic size. it is now clear that a six or seven form entry school can cater properly for the whole ability range and produce a viable sixth form. In rural areas or in small towns where only one secondary school is needed its size will inevitably be determined by the number of children for whom it must cater; and this may well not support a six form entry school. But wherever a six form entry is possible, within the limits of reasonable travelling for secondary pupils, it should be achieved.
8. It will sometimes be possible to establish a single comprehensive school in buildings designed for use as separate schools. But any scheme of this type will need careful scrutiny. If buildings are at a considerable distance from each other, or separated by busy roads, the disadvantages are obvious. Even where they are close together the amount and type of accommodation available may cause groupings of pupils which are arbitrary and educationally inefficient. It is essential that any such school could make a satisfactory timetable, deploy its staff efficiently, economically and without undue strain, and become a well-knit community.
9. There are examples of schools which function well in separate buildings, and there will often be advantages to offset the disadvantages mentioned above. For example, the sharing of different premises by a single school may ensure that all the children enjoy at least part of their secondary education in a new building. Moreover additional building already approved or likely to be included in an early programme may help to overcome the drawbacks of the initial arrangements.
(ii) Two-tier systems whereby all pupils transfer at 11 to a junior comprehensive school and at 13 or 14 to a senior comprehensive school (see paragraph 3(ii))
10. Two-tier systems consisting of junior and senior comprehensive schools, each with its own head teacher, and with automatic transfer of all pupils at 13 or 14, have two clear advantages over other two-tier systems. They avoid discrimination between pupils at the point of transfer; and they eliminate the element of guesswork about the proportion of pupils who will transfer to the senior school. They may, it is true, produce problems of organisation, particularly where a senior school is fed by more than one junior school. If pupils are not to suffer unnecessarily from the change of school, the schools involved will have to cooperate fully and positively in the choice of curriculum, syllabus and teaching method (see paragraph 34). In the interest of continuity all the schools will have to surrender some of their freedom. But this system is attractive in that it will often fit readily into existing buildings; and it can develop into an all-through system of orthodox comprehensive schools in the course of time as new buildings become available.
(iii) A two-tier system under which all pupils transfer at 11 to a junior comprehensive school and at 13 or 14 some pupils move on to a senior school while others remain in the junior school (see paragraph 3(iii))
11. The two main forms which this system may take have been described in paragraph 3(iii) above. That in which the junior comprehensive school keeps pupils only until 15 can clearly be no more than an interim arrangement; there must eventually be automatic transfer of all pupils from the junior to the senior school.
12. If local circumstances rule this out for some years then at the very least there should be a reorganisation of the junior schools to make satisfactory provision until 16 for those pupils who do not transfer at 13 or 14. Such provision will certainly have to include courses leading to the CSE examination; whether it should also include GCE Ordinary Level courses is a more open question. Where staffing permits, there is much to be said for including GCE courses in the junior schools. This gives an added stimulus to the work and to the teaching; it gives intellectually able pupils who do not transfer an opportunity nevertheless of gaining the qualifications which they would have won if they had transferred; it makes it easier for them, through gaining GCE Ordinary Levels, to transfer in due course to the sixth form in a senior school or to a college of further education; and it reduces the danger of creating social differences between junior and senior schools, with the junior schools regarded as 'poor relations'.
13. Whatever dividing line is drawn between the junior and the senior school, the Secretary of State will expect certain conditions to be observed:
(a) It is essential, if selection is not to be reintroduced, that transfer to the senior school should be at parents' choice.14. If these conditions are met schemes of this type have the merit of fitting comparatively easily into existing buildings and of taking full account of parental choice at the point of transfer. They are therefore acceptable as transitional schemes. But eventually, as paragraphs 4 and 11 will have made clear, the Secretary of State expects that all two-tier systems involving optional transfer at 13 or 14 will give way to systems under which transfer is automatic.
(iv) Two-tier systems whereby all pupils transfer at 11 to a junior comprehensive school with a choice of senior school at 13 or 14 (see paragraph 3(iv))
15. These differ from the schemes described in paragraphs 11 to 14 in that the junior comprehensive school has the same age range for all its pupils. No children remain in it beyond the age of 13 or 14. All pupils then have a choice of senior school: one senior school will aim at Advanced Level and other sixth form work, while the other will not take its pupils beyond Ordinary Level, although the dividing line between the schools can be drawn at different points and they may overlap. The comments made in paragraphs 12, 13 and 14 above apply equally to schemes of this kind.
(v) Comprehensive schools with an age range of 11 to 16 combined with a sixth form college for pupils of 16 and over (see paragraph 3(v))
16. Two conceptions of the sixth form college have been put forward. One envisages the establishment of colleges catering for the educational needs of all young people staying on at school beyond the age of 16; the other would make entry to a college dependent on the satisfaction of certain conditions (e.g. five passes at Ordinary Level or a declared intention of preparing for Advanced Level). A variation of the sixth form college pattern is that which attaches the sixth form unit to one school; under such an arrangement pupils from schools without sixth forms can transfer to a single sixth form at another school.
17. A sixth form college may involve disadvantages for the lower schools; there are few obvious arguments in favour of comprehensive schools with an age range of 11 to 16. Children in this age group may lose from a lack of contact with senior pupils of 16 to 18. There is a danger that the concentration of scarce specialist teachers in the sixth form college will drain too much talent away from the schools. Some teachers may find unattractive the prospect of teaching the whole ability range in a school offering no opportunities for advanced work and many teachers express a preference for work in schools catering for the whole secondary age range.
18. But the possibility of loss to the lower schools has to be weighed against possible gains to pupils in the sixth form colleges. The risk of draining away teaching talent from the lower schools may be outweighed by the concentration of specialist staff in the colleges, thus ensuring their more economic use: a point of particular importance while the present teacher shortages continues. The loss to the younger pupils from lack of contact with sixth formers may be outweighed, not only by the greater opportunities for leadership which the younger pupils themselves will have in the lower school, but also by the gain to the sixth formers from their attaining something of the status and freedom from traditional school discipline enjoyed by students.
19. It is essential that no scheme involving the establishment of a sixth form college should lead to any restriction of existing educational opportunities for young people of 16 to 18. Where authorities are considering the establishment of sixth form colleges they should review all the educational needs of the 16-18 group in their area and the provision they have hitherto made for them, both in sixth forms and in colleges of further education. Where, in the light of this review, it is proposed to establish sixth form colleges, the relationship between these colleges and colleges of further education, and their respective functions, will require careful consideration to avoid unnecessary duplication of resources and to ensure the best use is made of the educational potential of each.
20. In this country there is so far little experience on which to base final judgements on the merits of sixth form colleges. Nevertheless the Secretary of State believes that the issues have been sufficiently debated to justify a limited number of experiments. Where authorities contemplate the submission of proposals, he hopes that they will consult with his Department at an early stage.
(vi) An organisation which involves middle schools straddling the primary/secondary age ranges (see paragraph 3(vi))
21. Section 1 of the Education Act 1964 makes it legally possible for new schools to be established which cater for an age range covering both primary and secondary schools as defined in Section 8 of the Education Act 1944. The establishment of middle schools with age ranges of 8 to 12 or 9 to 13 has an immediate attraction in the context of secondary reorganisation on comprehensive lines. In the first place such schools seem to lead naturally to the elimination of selection. In the second they shorten the secondary school span by one or two years and thus make it possible to have smaller all-through comprehensive schools.
22. Notwithstanding the attractiveness of middle school systems, the Secretary of State does not intend to give his statutory approval to more than a very small number of such proposals in the near future. This is for reasons relating to the age of transfer from primary to secondary education; see paragraph 30 below.
III Some general considerations
23. The disposition, character and size of existing schools, particularly of the schools built since the war, which must be assumed to remain in use for a considerable time, must influence and in many cases go far to determine the shape of secondary organisation. Sometimes the existing buildings will lend themselves readily to a new organisation; in other cases they will exhibit marked deficiencies if they are used, with little or no modification, for purposes for which they were not intended.
24. During the next few years growing demands for new schools arising from the increase in the school population, new house building and the raising of the school leaving age are unlikely to permit any relaxation of the criteria for inclusion of projects in building programmes. It would not be realistic for authorities to plan on the basis that their individual programmes will be increased solely to take account of the need to adapt or remodel existing buildings on a scale which would not have been necessary but for reorganisation.
25. Where existing buildings cannot easily be adapted to a new pattern authorities, in drawing up their plans, must balance against each other the following factors:
(a) the consideration mentioned in paragraph 24;26. It is for authorities to weigh these considerations and to devise the most satisfactory plans in relation to local circumstances. In doing so, they should appreciate that while the Secretary of State wishes progress to be as rapid as possible, he does not wish it to be achieved by the adoption of plans whose educational disadvantages more than offset the benefits which will flow from the adoption of comprehensive schooling.
27. The changeover to a comprehensive system should not affect the numerical demand for teachers significantly. But the short term plan called for in paragraph 44(b) will have to be devised against the background that the secondary schools will still be short of teachers in 1969 (though their staffing standards will be better then than now) and have still to face the staffing strain of a higher leaving age in 1970-71. The Secretary of State will not be able to modify the quota arrangements to take account of individual authorities' proposals in response to this Circular.
28. It will be clear from Section II above that reorganisation can have other important and complex implications for staffing. See, for example, the comments on staffing of particular types of scheme contained in paragraphs 13(d) and 17. Authorities should consider carefully how best to effect any redistribution of teaching staff which their plans may entail and, in particular how to ensure that specialist staff in scarce categories are deployed and used as efficiently as possible.
29. Plans to reorganise secondary education are bound to affect the pattern of higher posts in the schools, especially headships. The Secretary of State is glad to note that the Burnham Primary and Secondary Committee has under consideration the question of safeguarding teachers' salaries in the event of school reorganisation.
(iii) Age of transfer to secondary education
30. Pending any recommendations which the English and Welsh Central Advisory Councils for Education might make on the age of transfer from primary to secondary education, the normal age of transfer should be regarded as eleven plus. Except where they have agreed a limited departure from this principle with the Secretary of State, authorities should prepare their plans on this basis. Decisions taken by the Secretary of State when he considers the Councils' recommendations may have a bearing on secondary school organisation but this situation is not likely to arise in the near future. Authorities will appreciate that there is bound to be a considerable period between the making of any recommendations and the implementation of Government decisions on them; these would be reached only after wide consultation and careful consideration of all the factors involved.
(iv) Transfer from junior to senior secondary schools in two-tier systems
31. With a school leaving age of 16, authorities adopting a two-tier organisation, including organisations of the type described in paragraph 3(iii), will have a choice between a three-year course in the junior secondary school and a two-year course subsequently, or vice versa, Two years is not ideal as a period in one school at any stage; but a choice has to be made, and the balance of argument seems to favour transfer to a senior school at 13.
32. If the age of transfer were 14, pupils would enter the senior school at a stage when the number of subjects studied was being reduced and the course began to focus more narrowly on examinations. Some subjects would never be begun, either because they needed a course of some years or because they were not subjects which the particular pupil needed to offer in an examination. Although for subjects such as history and geography the age chosen for transfer might not be very important, for others, such as science and modern languages, delay of transfer until 14 would probably be harmful. A two-year course geared to an external examination would be likely to be planned on the basis of giving a large amount of time to comparatively few subjects; this is the very reverse of liberal education.
33. With 13 as the age of transfer the senior school could afford to introduce specialisation more gradually, and there would be more likelihood of effecting a smooth transition. Arguments in favour of a three-year run in the junior school apply with even greater force to the senior school where the pace is accelerated and the course reaches its climax both for pupils who have to face examinations and for those about to enter the world of work.
34. A change of school is a stimulus for some pupils but for others it means a loss of momentum; the break imposed by transfer therefore calls for a deliberate effort to bridge it. To achieve continuity close cooperation between the staff of the different schools will be necessary, particularly where several junior schools feed one senior school, in the choice of curriculum, syllabus and teaching method. If a two-tier system is to function efficiently, there will also be a need for systematic and continuous guidance and observation of pupils' development, together with careful recording of findings and a regular exchange of information and views between junior and senior schools.
35. In two-tier systems which allow a choice of school during the secondary course (see the forms of organisation described under sub-headings II (iii) and (iv) above), it is important to ensure that children whose parents choose the lower school for them when they are 13 or 14 should be able to transfer to the senior school at the sixth form stage as a matter of right, if by this stage they find that they wish to continue in full-time education at school. But, as has already been made clear, the Secretary of State expects that optional will eventually give way to automatic transfer.
(v) The school community
36. A comprehensive school aims to establish a school community in which pupils over the whole ability range and with differing interests and backgrounds can be encouraged to mix with each other, gaining stimulus from the contacts and learning tolerance and understanding in the process. But particular comprehensive schools will reflect the characteristics of the neighbourhood in which they are situated; if their community is less varied and fewer of the pupils come from homes which encourage educational interests, schools may lack the stimulus and vitality which schools in other areas enjoy. The Secretary of State therefore urges authorities to ensure, when determining catchment areas, that schools are as socially and intellectually comprehensive as is practicable. In a two-tier system it may be possible to link two differing districts so that all pupils from both areas go to the same junior and then to the same senior comprehensive schools.
(vi) Voluntary schools
37. In a number of areas, which have already introduced or planned a comprehensive organisation, the voluntary schools have not been included, but the plans which the Secretary of State is now requesting authorities to prepare should embrace them. Authorities which have already devised their plans for county (and sometimes controlled) schools alone should take the initiative in opening discussions with the governors of the aided and special agreement schools which they maintain and, where appropriate, with diocesan authorities, with a view to reaching agreement on how these schools can best be reorganised on comprehensive lines. Other authorities should proceed with consultation and planning for voluntary schools as part of their general planning. It will clearly be of great assistance, particularly in areas with a large number of voluntary school places, if negotiations can lead to the early integration of voluntary schools into a reorganised structure. The Secretary of State asks that local education authorities and the governors of voluntary schools should enter into discussions to this end at the earliest practicable stage in the preparation of plans.
38. It is not essential that the same pattern should be adopted for denominational and other voluntary schools in any given area as is adopted for that area's county schools. The disposition and nature of the existing voluntary school buildings may dictate a different solution; voluntary schools of a particular denomination may serve the population of more than one local authority area, and the school or diocesan authorities may be able to devise an appropriate and acceptable scheme which does not coincide directly with that adopted for the authorities' county schools; or a denomination may at present rely heavily on direct grant schools for its selective places. There will not be a single and easy solution to these difficulties, but the Secretary of State hopes that where they occur, the schools, denominational authorities and local education authorities will be able to negotiate solutions which ensure that while selection is eliminated, parents are not deprived of places which meet their religious wishes, and on which they have hitherto been able to rely.
(vii) Direct Grant schools
39. In a number of areas, and especially in large towns, direct grant grammar schools make a substantial contribution alongside the maintained schools to the provision of secondary places. The proportion of such places paid for by local education authorities is in the case of many schools, particularly those of a denominational character, very high. The Secretary of State looks to both local education authorities and the governors of direct grant schools to consider ways of maintaining and developing this cooperation in the context of the policy of comprehensive education. He hopes that authorities will study ways in which the schools might be associated with their plans, and that governing bodies will be ready to consider changes, for instance in curriculum and in method and age of entry, which will enable them to participate fully in the local scheme. The Secretary of State asks that authorities should open discussions at an early stage with the governors of direct grant schools in which they take up places; it may be appropriate for such discussions to be in consultation with any other authorities taking up places in the same schools.
40. The smooth inception and continuing success of any scheme of reorganisation will depend on the cooperation of teachers and the support and confidence of parents. To secure these there must be a process of consultation and explanation before any scheme is approved by an authority for submission to the Secretary of State. An authority should take all those concerned into its confidence at as early a stage as possible.
41. The proper processes of local government must leave initiative on matters of principle and the ultimate responsibility for decisions with the elected representatives of the community. But the Secretary of State believes that once the principles and main outlines of a possible plan of reorganisation have been formulated there should follow a period of close and genuine consultation with teachers. The precise methods cannot be prescribed and will necessarily vary from one authority to another. On the general character of a plan and on matters affecting an authority's teachers as a whole, consultation with teachers' associations would normally be appropriate. Working groups composed of local education authority officers and teachers have also been found successful in some areas. Individual teachers or school staffs affected by particular schemes should always be taken into consultation, to whatever extent is reasonable and practicable, at the appropriate stage. The arrangements must strike a balance between the fundamental right and duty of the authority to take decisions and the practical good sense of accepting that teachers have a very real contribution to make from their knowledge of the children and their needs. In the last resort only teachers can make any educational system work well.
42. Parents cannot be consulted in the same way as teachers; but it is important that they should be informed fully and authoritatively as soon as practicable in the planning stage. Explanations by elected members and officers can be given at meetings, in schools, in booklets and through the press. A scheme may easily arouse anxiety and hostility among parents if they are dependent for information about it on unreliable and incomplete reports spread by word of mouth or partisan reports of any kind. The early and widespread dissemination of information will help to strengthen parental confidence and should avoid the risk of the submission of ill-informed and unnecessary objections where schemes involve the publication of notices under Section 13 of the 1944 Act.
IV Preparation and submission of plans
43. In the light of the considerations mentioned above, local education authorities are requested to submit plans to the Secretary of State for the reorganisation of secondary education in their areas on comprehensive lines.
44. Plans should be submitted within one year of the date of this Circular, although the Secretary of State may exceptionally agree an extension to this period in the case of any individual authority. Plans should be in two parts (15 copies of each) as follows:
(a) A general statement of the authority's long-term proposals.
This should indicate the type or types of comprehensive organisation which it is intended to establish; should cover all parts of the authority's area and should embrace in its scope both county and voluntary maintained schools. It will be clear from paragraphs 37 and 38 that voluntary schools should in due course be as fully part of any scheme as county schools, though they need not follow an identical pattern and it may take longer for necessary adjustments to be achieved. Authorities which at present supplement their maintained provision by taking free or reserved places in direct grant schools or by paying fees in whole or in part for pupils at independent schools should indicate their future intentions. They should also indicate the extent to which direct grant schools are participating in their plans.
(b) A detailed statement of the authority's proposals whether not they have already been discussed with the Department covering a period of three years starting not later than September 1967.
This part should describe what it is proposed by the authority should happen to every secondary school affected by this first stage of their plan. It should be made clear whether what is proposed for this period is an instalment of a long-term plan or whether it represents interim arrangements designed to be modified or superseded. Each school affected should be identified by name, present size, status, denomination, sex of pupils and type. Its short and long-term future should then be described. The arrangements proposed for the admission of children to the comprehensive schools should be explained. This explanation should cover initial admission to schools recruiting at the normal age of transfer from primary to secondary education and any later transfer which is involved in two-tier systems.
This three-year instalment of the plan should include a statement of estimates of costs of all major and minor building programme proposals which will be involved in carrying it out. The Secretary of State does not intend to amend of his own initiative the major school building programmes already announced for 1965-66, 1966-67 and part of 1967-68. But authorities may themselves wish to recast some of their programmes in order to bring secondary school projects into line with their plans for reorganisation; in this case proposals for recasting programmes should made at the time of the plan's submission. When preparing such proposals authorities will need to bear in mind the building needs created in their areas by the raising of the school leaving age in 1970-71. The total cost of a recast programme must not exceed that already authorised for 1965-66 and 1966-67; there may however be some scope for increase in 1967-68 since the full programme for that year has not yet been settled.
45. The Secretary of State hopes that local education authorities, voluntary school governors, denominational representatives and direct grant school governors will consult freely with the officers of his Department at any stage in their deliberations at which they believe that informal discussion would be helpful. He would in particular ask that local education authorities should consult the Department when their plans are at a sufficiently advanced stage but before they are finally approved for submission.
46. The Government are aware that the complete elimination of selection and separatism in secondary education will take time to achieve. They do not seek to impose destructive or precipitate change on existing schools; they recognise that the evolution of separate schools into a comprehensive system must be a constructive process requiring careful planning by local education authorities in consultation with all those concerned. But the spontaneous and exciting progress which has been made in this direction by so many authorities in recent years demonstrates that the objective is not only practicable; it is also now widely accepted. The Government believe that both the education service and the general public will welcome the further impetus which a clear statement of national policy will secure.