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Paul Mackney of UCU comments on the challenges of ESOL

University and College Union (UCU) joint general secretary, Paul Mackney, responded to the comments made by skills minister Bill Rammell about changes in government plans for funding of ESOL (English for speakers of other languages). Mr Rammell was speaking on the BBC programme World at One.

Paul Mackney said: Unfortunately Bill Rammel has repeated a familiar mantra which is partly mistaken and partly misses the point. He says there is no cutting of funds for ESOL but the reality is that many colleges are cutting ESOL courses to cope with other government targets requiring them to provide full level 2 courses.

He is wrong to claim that the governments plans are necessary to enable the poorest students to get to the front of the massive national queue for ESOL classes. The government could ask all colleges to target the most disadvantaged when prioritising waiting lists, rather than imposing draconian plans which will hurt so many very disadvantaged people.

Bills plans for helping immigrant spouses is currently via very limited and complex project money, not proper language teaching money. This has been dismissed as unworkable by professionals who work with women in migrant communities.

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He also continues to miss the point that many low income employees are not on benefits and will still therefore be required to pay full fees, unaffordable to most of them. Benefits are not the only indicator of poverty and low pay and he needs to address this.

Finally, it is not enough for him to say employers have a responsibility to make a contribution while not requiring them to do so. I hope these points are taken on board when further concessions are announced.

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