UK: MP's English class anger

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Jan 16 14:37:52 UTC 2007

MP's English class anger

GOVERNMENT cuts could deny Selby's flourishing Polish population vital
English lessons, the town's Labour MP has claimed. John Grogan criticised
the Government for changing its policy on English language courses, so
that from September only people claiming certain benefits would qualify
for free tuition. And even then, they would first have to complete a
16-page form. Currently courses are free for all. A huge number of Polish
people have settled in the Selby area and form an important part of the
workforce at some of the district's major employers.

Mr Grogan branded the changes "short-sighted." He said: "I'm not saying
migrant workers should not make some contribution, but my fear is the
effect of this policy will be that a lot less migrant workers will learn
English. "Most do not claim benefits and aren't desperately well paid, so
they're not necessarily going to be able to afford expensive fees. "I have
met a lot of people who have gone to Selby College and have been very keen
to spend almost every spare moment they have got learning English and
communicating with their workmates." Mr Grogan said he recognised the
financial constraints, but thought a better policy was available.

"There are pressures on the education department because there are clearly
more migrant workers taking up these opportunities," he said. "Maybe
there's a role for employers to make a contribution and share the burden."
In November, The Press reported on Selby College's thriving English
language scheme. Speaking at the time, Liz Ridley, adult and community
education manager at the college, said: "In the last two years we've seen
a massive growth in the number of Poles enrolling for English as a second
language courses. "We've found that a lot of the people that come to us
have had a good education in Poland but, because they can't speak English,
they have to take lower paid, more menial jobs than they would at home."

Bogdan Bednarczyk, 25, who runs Polish shops in Selby and in York, said
the policy would have negative effects. "I think perhaps 20 per cent of
the people learning English will continue doing it at home, but the rest
will probably give up," he said. "When I came to England the only way to
deal with anything was to communicate in English. "Now, because there are
more Polish people, you don't have to speak English, which makes it more
difficult to learn."

7:26am Monday 15th January 2007


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