Records of the Committee of Inquiry into Reading and the Use of English

Scope and Content

This collection consists of duplicated minutes, circulated papers and some of the correspondence between Committee members and secretariat. Documents include reports submitted by expert witnesses, such as teachers, educational physchologists, school inspectors, academics, unions and special interest groups. There are also articles and papers circulated amongst members as background information, records generated by some of the sub-committees, and numerous drafts of the Bullock Report.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Committee of Inquiry into Reading and the Use of English, chaired by Sir Alan Bullock, was appointed in 1972 by the then Secretary of State for Education, Margaret Thatcher, as a response to public outcry and anxiety over falling reading ability triggered by the publication in 1972 of 'The Trend of Reading Standards' by the National Foundation for Educational Research that claimed reading standards were declining. The Committee was based in the Department for Education and Science.

The Committee's remit was initially limited to identifying if reading standards had fallen, but it grew to be a review of how the English language was taught at school through reading, writing and speech. Pre- and post- schooling approaches to language were also considered.

Sir Alan Bullock was selected as Chair for his impartiallity on the issue; the other eighteen members reflected a diverse range of expertise and professional opinion.

Fifty-four Committee meetings were held between 1972 and 1974. The final report was published in 1975 as 'A Language for Life', also referred to as the 'Bullock Report'. All nineteen members of the Committee agreed with and signed the report.

The issues addressed by the Committee fell into five categories:

- Methods and Materials of Learning and Teaching Literacy

- Struggling Children

- Standards and Monitoring

- Teacher Training

- School Hierarchy, Organisation and External Relationships

Committee Members:

Sir Alan Bullock St Catherine's College, Oxford

Sister Basil

Professor J Britton Goldsmith's College, University of London

Mr JWA Burnet The Economist

Miss J Derrick National Foundation for Educational Research

Mr JJ Fairbairn Education Department, St John's College, York

Mr HK Fowler

Mr SH Froome Shoreditch College

Mr D Gadsby A and C Black Ltd. Publishers

Mr WK Gardner Further Professional Training Division. School of Education, University of Nottingham

Mr CR Gillings

Mrs DMR Hutchcroft OBE Saltford Primary School, Bristol

Miss A Johns Henry Fawcett Infant School. London

Mr M Marland Woodberry Down Secondary School, London

Professor JE Merritt Faculty of Education Studies, Open University

Mr AJ Puckey Nottinghamshire Education Department

Mrs V Southgate Booth School of Education, University of Manchester

Dame Muriel Stewart

Professor J Wrigley Schools Council

Secretariat: Department of Education and Science

Mr Ronald Arnold Secretary

Mrs GW Dishart Assistant Secretary

Mr DA Robins


Britton, J., (1978) 'Foreward' in 'Teaching for Literacy: Reflections on the Bullock Report' ed. Davis, F., and Parker, R.,

Rosen, H., (1975) 'Editorial' in 'Language and Literacy in our Schools: Some Appraisals of the Bullock Report' ed. Rosen, H.,


The collection is donated into three sections by creator:

David Gadsby: BUL/A

Christopher Gillings: BUL/B

The Bullock Report pen is attached as an item directly to the Fonds as BUL/C

Gadsby had separated his paperwork into minutes and correspondence, and arranged both chronologically; this has been preserved in my arrangement, with correspondence relating to the donation of the material in 1983 extracted and given its own file. Because of the small ammount of material I added the files direct to the subfonds description.

Gillings arranged most of his papers by function, underpinned by the coding system employed by the Committee's secretariat. The following formula was used: The initials 'RI' followed by the year, followed by the appropriate suffix:

Evid = evidence

CR = conclusions and recommendations

Org = organisation

RPT = report (draft)

SC = sub-committee,

INF = information

This was then followed by an item level number. The series reverted back to 1 at the start of each year, rather than accumulating. EG: RI(73)Evid.1 refers to the first item of evidence circulated to the Committee in 1973.

Documents issued by the secretariat, which make up the majority of this collection, were coded in the upper right-hand side. I have preserved this arrangement by separating Gilling's papers into function-based series (General Administration, Committee minutes, sub-committees and working groups, evidence, information and drafts of the Bullock Report). Within the files items have been left as found, which is mostly chronologicaI in line with the item numbering described above; sections of Minutes and Evidence were rearranged to fit the chronological arrangement where this had clearly been the intention. I have arranged the series roughly in the order of workflow, as there was no apparent order at this level.

Two of Gilling's files are not arranged by function, but contain a mix of material; each is arranged as found, and attached directly to the Gillings subfonds, below the series descriptions.

Access Information


Open, subject to signature of Reader Application Form.

Other Finding Aids


Conditions Governing Use

A reader wishing to publish any quotation of information, including pictorial, derived from any archive material must apply in writing for prior permission from the Archivist or other appropriate person(s) as indicated by the Archivist. A limited number of photocopies may be supplied at the discretion of the Archivist.

Custodial History

This collection was originally part of the National Primary Education Archive (NPEA) at Bishop Grosseteste College, Lincoln. It was given to the NPEA in three accessions: two by C. R. Gillings (in 1983 and 1997) and one by David Gadsby (in 1983). The material was transferred to the Institute of Education in 1998.


Gadsby papers: 1983

Gillings papers: 1983 and 1997

Bullock pen: 2006

Related Material

'A language for life' : report of the Committee of Inquiry appointed by the Secretary of State for Education and Science under the chairmanship of Sir Alan Bullock , 1975. ISBN:0112703267 .