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'Government policy is racist!' says UCU head

John Budis | 19.04.2007 10:57 | Anti-racism | Culture | Education | Birmingham | London

Alively Tower Hamlets Save ESOL public meeting, attended by over 100 people, heard from a wide range of speakers last night. Amongst them was Paul Mackney (Joint head of UCU) who pulled no punches about the governments proposals to end free entitlement to ESOL classess from September this year.

‘Government policy is racist’ says UCU head

‘I know many people shy away or seem to think it’s impolite to use this phrase in educational circles, but let’s be clear, this policy is racist!’ declared Paul Mackney, General Secretary of UCU, last night. He was referring to government plans to end free universal entitlement to ESOL courses from September of this year, as opposed to Adult Literacy courses, which will not be affected. He stated that the government claim that there are no cuts in Adult Education stands in complete contradiction to the redundancies taking place in most London colleges.

The Cuts Bite

In Tower Hamlets alone there are 20 posts being chopped on top of the 35 that were lost last year.

In City and Islington College there will be 14 redundancies as a result of the £1.1 million cut in Adult funding.

Over 100 people attended the Tower Hamlets College UCU Save ESOL rally last night. The meeting was united in its condemnation of a government policy change that directly contradicts its claim to be championing social cohesion. Monica Lucero, a lecturer at Tower Hamlets College, stated that there was a real fear that we would be faced with a huge number of empty classes from next September as the new ‘means-tested’ approach to free ESOL entitlement kicks in.

Those most in need hit hardest

The government claim, that the changes to ESOL funding was not intended to cut provision but to target it at those most in need, was widely ridiculed. The government has instructed the LSCs to set new college targets for level one and two training. If the colleges don’t comply they lose funding. If they do comply they have to cut back on provision at lower language levels. This means that the lower level E1, 2 and 3 will bear the brunt of trying to achieve these targets. ‘How can we get to L1 if we can’t start at the level that we need?’ asked one student.

Paul Mackney also warned the meeting to look out for a government press release claiming that the new ESOL policy was targeting those most in need to put a positive spin on the changes. The waiting lists in Tower Hamlets are for the lower end of the ESOL provision-not the higher. This is reflected all across London and flies in the face of government claims that they want to reduce the waiting lists.

London Demonstration

The meeting went on to discuss how to build for the demonstration on the 28th of April. There will be three feeder marches converging on Hackney Town hall at 2 pm on the day. These will come from Highbury and Islington, Altab Ali Park in Whitechapel and the Homerton Hospital in Hackney.

Oli Rahman, Respect councillor in Tower Hamlets pledged full support for the demonstration and stated they would be raising the question of the ESOL cuts at the next full council meeting as did speeches from Tower Hamlets and Hackney national Union of Teachers. The Liberal Democrat councillor, Azizur Rahman Khan also pledged his support for the campaign.

John Budis
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