UK: Speaking out on ESOL language cuts

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Mar 7 20:20:23 UTC 2007

Socialist Worker 2041, 10 March 2007 (


Speaking out on Esol language cuts
Kelly Hilditch

The sight of a queue of around 1,000 students and lecturers winding its
way around the houses of parliament greeted MPs on Wednesday morning of
last week. Coaches brought campaigners from as far afield as Yorkshire,
Bristol and Manchester to lobby MPs over the proposed cuts to the free
provision of classes in English for speakers of other languages (Esol).
The scale of the protest was such that most people could not get into the
meeting organised in parliament, which was addressed by education minister
Bill Rammell.

Instead around 500 people escaped the rain and went to an additional rally
in a nearby hall. Chancellor Gordon Brown has made citizenship one of his
favourite themes. He has said that immigrants should be required to speak
English before they can be granted citizenship. Last week Brown said that
they should also be required to volunteer in the community. Alison, an
Esol lecturer in Lewisham, south London, pointed out, Pulling the funding
for Esol classes doesnt match the focus on citizenship tests. These
classes are one of the few things that make life bearable for asylum


I teach a mix of people, including women whose children are at school and
who want to expand their understanding and skills. I also teach migrant
workers from Poland and Lithuania who cant get jobs with a decent wage
because their English isnt good enough. These are people who cannot afford
to pay. And the idea that people who need basic English classes will be
able to fill out a 20 page form for a means tested benefit is not
realistic. Most of my students wont be able to afford to pay. Anna
Reisenberger of the Refugee Council told the rally, Government policy is
totally contradictory. Why cut Esol provision now? Do government ministers
even speak to each other?

A speaker from the floor agreed with Anna, saying, Many asylum seekers
survive on 35 a week how can they afford to pay for Esol classes out of
this when they are not allowed to work? This is an attack on our society
as a whole and we must fight it we should be calling for a national
demonstration. Many Esol students were at the lobby. Francisco and Pilar
are Esol students at Morley college in central London. Francisco comes
from Spain and has lived in London for two years. He said, I think these
cuts are really bad. I live here, I work here and I pay tax so why should
I not be able to get access to English classes? When I first moved here I
had to work as a cleaner for 4 an hour. Its only because my English has
got better that I have been able to get a better job.

If they start charging for Esol classes then I will have to try and find a
way to pay for them I need them. But it is already so expensive to live in
London that at the moment I have to work two jobs. If the government
really wants to isolate people then it can. We can live here and speak our
own languages just like the English expats do in Spain. And the government
will end up paying for translators in hospitals and places like that. But
thats not what I want. And it would be a bad thing for London if people
were isolated.

Pilar moved to Britain from Ecuador 11 years ago. She said, I work as a
childminder so its important that my English is good. Its not just that I
want to learn I need to.


My life is here. I dont understand why people like me will be treated like
this. Ahmed Gurmah is an Esol campaigner from Sheffield. He told Socialist
Worker, We set up a save Esol campaign two weeks ago that links up the
colleges and campaigners in Sheffield. Weve brought a coachload of people
down to the lobby. Over the next couple of weeks we are planning to hold
public meetings to highlight whats going on.

The campaign, which was launched by the UCU lecturers union and refugee
groups, is supported by several trade unions many of which sent messages
of support to the protest.


N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal.


More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list