The government want to cut access to low-cost English classes. This contradicts every statement the government has made about the importance of migrants learning English. Up to 70% of students will be affected. These are people are who live permanently in the UK and are learning English to help with work, being part of community, helping children at school etc. Women will be particularly affected.All around the country people took action on the 24th March to demand a rethink of this disastrous policy.
This afternoon (Thursday 24th March) saw a demonstration at the Centre, in Bristol (opposite the Hippodrome) as part of the national day of action against the proposed cuts to ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). The event was well attended and saw Bristol’s diverse community come out to show their anger at the government’s proposals to cut funding for English literacy classes for speakers of other languages. The proposals will limit ESOL classes to those in receipt of jobseekers allowance or employment and support allowance, which it is estimated will mean that 70% of current ESOL students would not be eligible for free classes which give them the invaluable ability to communicate with english speakers and integrate into their communities. These cuts will disproportionately effect asylum seekers and women who are busy raising families and so cannot apply for jobseekers.
The Co Chairs of NATECLA (the National Association for Teaching English and other Community Languages to Adults) have argued that, “The cuts in FE funding, are creating the most serious crisis for the future of ESOL that has ever been seen. If the government truly wants people to integrate and be part of the ‘big society’ then language is the key. ESOL learners are keen to learn the language and integrate into society but in order to do this they need programmes that enable them to do so.”
The demonstration included a quiz about Bristol, and included several speakers, including moving testimony from some past and present ESOL students who expressed the ways in which ESOL classes had tremendously helped their ability to adapt to living in the UK and integrate into the community in Bristol.