College makes a song and dance over cuts to English for immigrants

27th May 2011 at 01:00
Stephen Exley

Students and teachers protesting against cuts to English for speakers of other languages (Esol) courses swapped their placards for maracas in a demonstration with a difference.

More than 150 staff and students at Greenwich Community College in south-east London took up tambourines and bongos to express their anger at restrictions on free English language classes for immigrants, unless they are actively seeking work.

The per-student rate of public funding for Esol has been cut by 50 per cent over two years, meaning that 600 of Greenwich Community College's 1,100 Esol students will be affected. Around 80 per cent of those affected are female.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has said it will continue to fully fund Esol courses for unemployed people on active benefits, and will pay 50 per cent of the costs for people who are settled in the UK but are not receiving active benefits.

But Jennifer Turner, head of Esol at the college, said the increased costs would deter thousands of students from learning English.

"The aftershocks of these cuts will be felt in the local area for years to come," she said.

"David Cameron can talk all he likes about the need for immigrants to learn English, but slashing the budget for Esol classes will stop people from getting the skills they need to integrate into society and to find lasting employment.

"Students and staff here at Greenwich Community College and around the country are not willing to sit quietly by while experienced tutors and support staff lose their jobs and poorer students are asked to pay more."

Students marched around the college's Plumstead campus playing instruments in the protest organised by the University and College Union.

The union hit out at the Government over the changes, which will see more than 40 jobs and 50 courses at the college put at risk. Courses that escape the axe will double in price from #163;400 to #163;800.

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