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Demonstration to highlight threat to London's adult education

24 April 2007

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On Saturday 28 April, staff and students from North London colleges will demonstrate their opposition to the government's continued cuts in adult education and its plans to restrict access to free English language 'ESOL' courses. The protesters will highlight the impact on London.

Three marches from across North London will converge on Hackney Town Hall for a 2pm rally with speakers including Paul Mackney, joint general secretary of UCU and George Galloway, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow. Staff and students are expected to attend from further education colleges in Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Tower Hamlets, supported by many local residents and community organisations.

The protest has been organised by lecturers from north London colleges - UCU members - and several community organisations.

According to NIACE (The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education - England and Wales) adult education has been 'devastated' and a million course places have been lost from adult education in the last two years.

London is facing a 6% (£25 million) reduction in funding for adult education which will cut cash for some colleges by £1million and cause course closures and job losses from September. This will affect many adult education courses valued by low income and retired people and courses below Level 2 in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).

From September, many ESOL students will have to pay new fees. There is national concern about the plight of people unable to afford the fees, including thousands in London, where despite waiting lists, some ESOL courses are expected to close. Most of those denied free courses will be women and low paid workers, many of whom need language skills for work and to integrate into local community life.

Paul Mackney, UCU joint general secretary, said: 'We have the ridiculous position of skills shortages and educational needs not being met, waiting lists for courses increasing and teaching staff facing job losses. Government plans will hit skills training needed by older workers, leisure classes vital to pensioners' health and quality of life and language courses needed by immigrant residents trying to join in community life and work.

'Londoners will be amongst the hardest hit including vulnerable people of many backgrounds. The policy is designed to serve business interests, though employers are not required to contribute to its cost. Even business interests will not be well served as the plans don't address the need to retrain older workers or to take advantage of the skills of immigrants.

'Residents in many of London's poorest boroughs were promised that the Olympic Games would bring them jobs, but research shows that there are not the skills in the area and private training firms are not filling gaps. This crisis won't be helped by further cuts in adult education and ESOL.'
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