Heads revolt over language confusion

23rd August 1996 at 01:00
Matthew Beard reports on fears for ethnic-minority Section 11 cash

Headteachers' leaders have accused the Government of "arrant hypocrisy" in its handling of English language teaching for ethnic minorities.

As ministers deliver a tough message on raising the standard of English among young, first-generation immigrants, the Government is jeopardising the system by dithering over funding, the National Association of Head Teachers claims.

The principal source of cash for this work - Section 11 funding from the Home Office - is to be phased out from next March. Confusion reigns over what, if anything, is to replace it with a Government announcement already months overdue. Thousands of teachers and local authority staff worry that standards will slip and jobs will be lost.

The NAHT wants the phasing out to be delayed by one year to give the Government time to devise a reasonable alternative. David Hart, the union's general secretary, has written to Home Secretary Michael Howard requesting an urgent meeting.

Most of the money education authorities receive towards specialist English teaching is from the Section 11 fund - worth Pounds 58.8 million in 1996-7 - though some does come from the Department of the Environment's Single Regeneration Budget (SRB).

A recent contentious report into reading standards in three London boroughs showed that targeted funding made a significant impact on the achievement of ethnic-minority pupils. Mr Hart said the subsequent Government pronouncements on raising standards must be backed by cash.

He said: "It is arrant hypocrisy for the Government to complain about low standards in inner-city areas and then refuse to confirm whether extra help will still be available."

He said the confusion made it impossible to plan. His members were also concerned that thousands of teachers and other workers who are paid from the Section 11 fund face an uncertain future. Hundreds of teachers have already lost their jobs as a result of Government cuts in Section 11, which is down by more than 50 per cent from Pounds 130m in 1993-4.

Education authorities complain that they have been left in the dark about future funding. So concerned was the London borough of Tower Hamlets that it recently submitted a bid of Pounds 5m to the SRB in case it lost its Section 11 funds.

The Home Office said it hoped to be in a position to let authorities have more information shortly.

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