Bullock (1975)

1975 Bullock Report (complete)

The Bullock Report (1975)
A language for life

Report of the Committee of Enquiry appointed by the Secretary of State for Education and Science under the Chairmanship of Sir Alan Bullock FBA

London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1975
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

Notes on the text


Alan Bullock was born in Wiltshire on 13 December 1914, the son of a gardener and a maid. He first came to public notice in 1952 with his biography Hitler, A Study In Tyranny. He went on to write a three-volume biography of Ernest Bevin, the postwar Labour foreign secretary, whom he much admired.

In 1960 he became founding master of St Catherine's college in Oxford; he was a trustee of The Observer from 1957 to 1969 and the paper's director from 1977 to 1981; in 1969 was appointed Oxford's first full-time vice-chancellor; and he was chair of the Tate gallery from 1973 to 1980.

He was made a life peer in 1976 and continued lecturing until 1997. He died on 2 February 2004. (Lord Bullock: obituary The Guardian 3 February 2004).

The Committee of Enquiry, appointed in 1972 by Margaret Thatcher, Secretary of State for Education in Ted Heath's Conservative government, was given the following brief:

To consider in relation to schools:
(a) all aspects of teaching the use of English, including reading, writing, and speech;
(b) how present practice might be improved and the role that initial and in-service training might play;
(c) to what extent arrangements for monitoring the general level of attainment in these skills can be introduced or improved;
and to make recommendations.
The 22-member committee presented its wide-ranging report (running to more than 600 pages) to Thatcher's Labour successor, Reg Prentice, in September 1974.

Bullock is one of four reports on the teaching of English available on this website. They are:

Newbolt (1921) The Teaching of English in England;
Bullock (1975) A language for life;
Kingman (1988) The Teaching of English Language; and
Cox (1989) English for ages 5 to 16.

The report online

The full text of the report (including the Appendices) is online in a single web page.

The formatting of the text (bold, italics, centred etc) is a reasonably accurate representation of the printed version, but the pages presented here are not exact facsimiles of the original: the font (Times, Arial etc) and size of print - and therefore the number of words to a line and lines to a page - are determined by the settings you have chosen for your web browser. However, the page breaks are correct. In other words, if something is shown here as being on, say, page 103, you can be sure it appeared on page 103 in the original.

The page headers (part title on the left hand pages, chapter title on the right) have been omitted. Some of the tables are presented as images. Blank pages have been omitted. Anything added by way of explanation is shown [in square brackets].

Summary of the report's main recommendations

The report listed 17 'principal recommendations' (pages 513-515):

  • a system of monitoring should be introduced covering a wider range of attainments than has been attempted in the past and including new criteria for the definition of literacy;
  • steps should be taken to develop the language ability of children in the pre-school and nursery and infant years;
  • every school should devise a systematic policy for the development of reading competence in pupils of all ages and ability levels;
  • each school should have an organised policy for language across the curriculum;
  • every school should have a suitably qualified teacher with responsibility for advising and supporting colleagues in language and the teaching of reading;
  • there should be close consultation and communication between schools to ensure continuity in the teaching of reading and in the language development of every pupil;
  • English in the secondary school should have improved resources in terms of staffing, accommodation and ancillary help;
  • every LEA should appoint a specialist English adviser and should establish an advisory team with the specific responsibility of supporting schools in all aspects of language in education;
  • LEAs and schools should introduce early screening procedures to prevent cumulative language and reading failure and to guarantee individual diagnosis and treatment;
  • additional assistance should be given to children retarded in reading, and where pupils are withdrawn from classes for special help they should receive appropriate support on their return;
  • every LEA should have a reading clinic or remedial centre, offering a comprehensive diagnostic service and expert medical, psychological, teaching help and an advisory service to schools in association with the LEA's specialist adviser;
  • provision for the tuition of adult illiterates and semi-literates should be greatly increased, and there should be a national reference point for the co-ordination of information and support;
  • children of families of overseas origin should have more substantial and sustained tuition in English. More advisers and specialist teachers are needed in areas of need;
  • a standing working party with DES and LEA representatives should consider capitation allowances and the resources of schools - a satisfactory level of book provision should be its first subject of inquiry;
  • a substantial course on language in education (including reading) should be part of every primary and secondary school teacher's initial training;
  • there should be more in-service education opportunities in reading and other aspects of English teaching, including courses at diploma and higher degree level;
  • there should be a national centre for language in education, concerned with the teaching of English in all its aspects, from language and reading in the early years to advanced studies with sixth forms.

The 1975 Bullock Report and the above notes were prepared for the web by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 28 November 2006.

1975 Bullock Report (complete)