League of Exchange for Commonwealth Teachers (LECT)

Scope and Content


Record cards of UK and overseas teachers who exchanged through the work of the League, 1919-2001. There are a number of different series of records, each recording different information.

Membership records


Administrative / Biographical History

The League of the Empire was founded in 1901 by Mrs Elizabeth Middleton Ord Marshall (nee Beloe). She believed that people from across the Empire would benefit from direct interaction between themselves - and the best place to start was between children. It was a non-political and non-sectarian organisation which aimed to further friendly and educational communication between schools and other educational institutions around the Empire and to bring co-operation between the different classes and countries. Children from across the empire were encouraged to write to each other and soon the League began to support teachers who came to Britain from Canada and Australia on study leave by liaising with local education authorities and organising events. From 1907 the League began organising conferences including between Home and Overseas education departments, and the Imperial Conference of Teacher Organisations.

From 1919 the League began organising teacher exchanges between teachers in the UK and those living in countries of the empire. By 1939 the number of exchanges had increased to 186 each way - the highest number of exchanges in one year. It was intended that those teachers who exchanged were at a similar point in their careers, with similar experience. The majority of exchanges were taken up by unmarried women, with the number of women outnumbering men five to one. Many women from the UK settled in the country they had visited as part of the exchange. In order to encourage men to take part the Imperial Relations Trust provided financial assistance during the 1950s. In later years more support was given to teachers to enable their families to join them on the exchange and by the 1990s the number of men and women taking part was nearly equal.

During the Second World War all exchanges were stopped, and many teachers who had started their exchange in 1939 remained in their host country for more than a year before they were able to make their way home. Exchanges resumed in 1946. From 1948 the UK Government began to pay the cost of the living allowance to UK teachers exchanging to Canada, and from 1949 the government extended their financial support to subsidise the administration costs for the League. From 1960 travel grants were extended to Australia, New Zealand and African countries.

In 1939 the League became a charitable organisation. When, in 1949, it signed a declaration of trust, the organisation's name was changed to 'League of the British Commonwealth and Empire' and the retired HMI W J Rood was appointed the League's first director. In 1963 the League changed its name again, to the 'League for the Exchange of Commonwealth Teachers'.

The exchanges continued to be funded by the UK government until July 2011 when all funding was withdrawn. At that time LECT itself was closed down though some exchanges continued to be run on a self-financing basis by The Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council (CYEC) until August 2013 when that organisation also closed.

Access Information

Restricted access

Access to this collection is restricted under the Data Protection Act 1998. Please contact the archives for further information.

Acquisition Information

October 2013

Custodial History

The records were held by the LECT in Reading until the organisation closed. The records were transferred to the IOE Archives in October 2013 on the closure of the Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council.