UK: English language cuts condemned

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Thu Sep 13 13:29:46 UTC 2007

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  English language cuts condemned Wednesday, 12 Sep 2007 09:41
 Govt pushed to commit to skills
*Unions have called for the government to prioritise life-long learning to
boost skills.*

On Monday, Gordon Brown told the TUC Congress the nation's workforce must
increase its skills to meet the challenges of a global economy. But
delegates on Tuesday criticised the government for cutting funding for adult
learning – especially English language provision – while praising the
importance of skills. Sally Hunt, University and College Union general
secretary, said it was time the government matched rhetoric and reality and
"put lifelong learning back where it belongs at the centre of policy". Ms
Hunt added: "Now is the time to invest in adult and community education for
life not cut it."

Unions expressed concerns the government is encouraging migrant labour to
fill skills gaps, and then relying on unions to provide the necessary
language training. Tony Richards from Bakers, Food and Allied Workers' Union
warned it was "pernicious and misguided" to consider cutting funding for
ESOL. Delegates reported falling enrolment on ESOL English classes since
funding had been cut and the UCU warned students were deterred because of
the increased personal cost. Paddy Lillis, deputy general secretary at
Usdaw, said courses were already being forced to close because students
cannot afford to enrol.

Ms Hunt warned government cuts were hitting the unemployed, vulnerable and
low-paid the hardest. She argued: "government policy must be about opening
doors, not shutting them.
"We in the trade union movement must stand for education as the great
liberator. It is a workers' right – not grave and favour to be granted by an
employer". Unions warn immigrants without adequate English skill can
struggle to follow health and safety guidance, as well as risking social and
economic exclusion.$478258.htm
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