Parliament lobby will press government to save English language courses

22 February 2007

Government plans to restrict access to free English language courses will be opposed at a lobby of Parliament on Wednesday 28 February.

At a meeting in the House of Commons to be held simultaneously, Paul Mackney, joint general secretary of UCU, will outline deep concerns not just for the students' English but also for the future direction of the country.

Bill Rammell MP, minister for lifelong learning, who is attending, will be pressed to shift to a policy which would benefit community cohesion in Britain from one which campaigners say will badly damage it.

Other speakers will include MPs from Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative parties, Lord Bill Morris, college principals, senior national trade unionists, and spokespeople from the Refugee Council and organisations representing language tutors and adult education tutors and students.

Hundreds of people from as far away as Newcastle will attend the events in Westminster. Two coach loads of staff and students are coming from one college. They will explain to MPs the value of courses that will be jeopardised despite massive waiting lists of people wishing to study ESOL.

140 MPs have signed a motion (EDM) calling for a policy rethink. Over 50 organisations launched a 'Save ESOL' campaign in January and the campaign continues to gather momentum. Many college principals are backing the campaign. A debate on ESOL is scheduled for the Lords on Monday 26 February.

UCU says that the contribution of ESOL is educational, social and economic and the cost of increasing provision could easily be met from not just the education and skills budget but also from the Home Office and DTI, if 'joined-up government' was applied. The union wants chancellor Gordon Brown to reconsider ESOL's funding in the current comprehensive spending review

UCU joint general secretary Paul Mackney said: 'There has been an astonishing response to UCU's call for a united campaign to save ESOL. In just a few weeks we have stirred a national debate and revealed a huge, broad consensus of opinion against the government's plans.

'Now Bill Rammell and the government have got to make a choice: between policies which will help create the social cohesion they say they want - or policies which will contribute to social division and bitterness.

'The financial cost of cohesion is tiny and affordable, particularly when you think that the cost of schooling migrant workers has already been born by their country of origin. The social cost of rejecting this investment could be disastrous.'

The meeting takes place in Committee Room 14 from 11.00 to 2.30. Paul Mackney opens the event at 11.00. Bill Rammell speaks at 11.30, followed by testimony from tutors, students and education professionals.
Last updated: 14 December 2015