We are dismayed at the latest announcement of massive cuts to ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) provision. On 21st July the Skills Funding Agency announced that ESOL courses which have been provided for students receiving Job Seeker’s Allowance will be cut with immediate effect.
This latest cut is on top of a 24% reduction to funding for Further Education this year, which has meant extensive losses to ESOL provision nationally. In addition, it has been announced that adult courses will be cut by a further 3.9%, which will be applied retrospectively to adult budgets set in March.
The government has not presented any viable alternative provision for students to learn English.
The recent announcement that colleges should provide ESOL classes without funding is ridiculous and unworkable, as is the suggestion that volunteers should fill the gap. If ESOL students are to make progress, they need a rigorous assessment and teaching programme and dedicated, qualified teachers.
Furthermore, the timing of this government decision presents an additional difficulty as it throws careful college planning and budgets into disarray because it has been announced at a point in the year when college managements have finalised timetables and courses for the forthcoming year.
Action for ESOL oppose this latest round of cuts, which will impact on students, teachers, children of our ESOL students and on society as a whole.
On 20th July David Cameron said: ‘At the moment we have parts of the country where opportunities remain limited … where language remains a real barrier, where too many women from minority communities remain trapped outside the workforce, and where educational attainment is low.’
Many colleges and providers have been offering English classes to individuals referred by the Job Centre whose level of English was assessed as below Entry 3, a level identified as not high enough to access employment. The government decision to implement further cuts runs counter to their stated aim to help individuals develop skills in order to gain jobs and communicate with others.
Students need English classes to access jobs, participate in society, support their children, our future generation, through the education system and prevent isolation. Students are now left with an uncertain future, without the means to communicate with other English speakers and without the hope that they can gain a good level of English and gain qualifications that will help them on their chosen career path. Many ESOL students also bring skills and qualifications from their own countries but need to improve their English in order to be able to use these in the UK. These skills and qualifications are of benefit to the whole country.
ESOL teachers have specialist qualifications and many have years of experience in the field. The loss of these teachers through cuts is damaging to all.
Action for ESOL supports the 38 degrees petition opposing these vicious, racist cuts. Action for ESOL are also calling for a Day of Action on the 26th August to show opposition to this sudden and devastating cut in funding.
Sam Shepherd’s blog post – “Cuts: The kind of post I don’t want to write.”