From education to employment

Students take to the streets to protest against threat to free courses

This week saw students and lecturers from around the country participate in events to fight for the right for free courses in English for Speakers of Other Languages(ESOL).

The ESOL Day of Action was held on Wednesday 19 September and aimed to highlight the threat to free ESOL training brought about by recent Government funding changes. The protest, organised by the University and College Union (UCU) incorporated events in several towns and cities throughout England. Students at the Huddersfield protest were gagged to symbolise their inability to communicate if the free ESOL classes were no longer available, whilst in Bradford the UCU were encouraging students to carry empty chairs outside their classrooms with posters explaining why they were empty.

The ESOL courses are extremely successful and demand far outweighs supply, but the changes to ESOL funding means that for many people the vital courses will no longer be paid for by the Government, and instead the cost will shift to the individual or the individual’s employers.

The UCU general secretary Sally Hunt is concerned about the negative effects of the funding changes. “As colleges start their new term we fear that many people needing free English language classes will be unable to pay towards new fees and will consequently be prevented from playing a full part in their community and denied opportunities for work. The Government says it wants to upgrade adult skills and promote community cohesion, but a lack of joined up thinking means new ESOL funding arrangements work against both those objectives.”

Michelle Gagan

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