Socialist Worker

Defend Esol and the right to learn English

by Richard Payne and Naina Kent
Issue No. 2047

If the government’s plans go ahead, free Esol (English for speakers of other languages) classes will be a relic of the past come September.

Plans to introduce fees for those who are working, and limit concessions by introducing complex bureaucratic restrictions, will put English classes out of the reach of many.

The government announced that there would be no free Esol classes for asylum seekers and migrant workers who are not eligible for benefits from this September.

This is on top of a further £25 million cut in funding for adult education in London alone.

In response to the attacks, members of the UCU union have been organising with local community organisations across the country.

Bill Rammell, the minister for further and higher education, responded to pressure by announcing concessions.

These include allowing asylum seekers to access Esol classes after they have been here six months and setting up a hardship fund of £4.6 million to support students.

This will still leave many low income workers unable to afford the fees.

The government has been quick to condemn minorities for their alleged failure at social integration, even though the provision of language courses has never kept up with demand.

Now, rather than addressing this shortage, it is cutting access to learning English which will inevitably marginalise people at a time when social cohesion is, we are told, at the top of the government’s agenda.

Without the means to learn English, the voices of many will be silenced and their needs will go unheard.

This is why activists from across London will come together on Saturday 28 April in a joint demonstration against the cuts.

We want free Esol provision for all, and no further cuts in further and adult education.

Demonstrate Saturday 28 April

Hackney: meet 1pm, Homerton hospital, Homerton Grove, march to Hackney town hall. Speeches and activities to start at 2pm. Tower Hamlets: meet 12 noon, Altab Ali Park, Whitechapel, march to Hackney town hall for 2pm. City & Islington: meet 12 noon at Highbury and Islington tube, for march to Hackney town hall for 2pm. For further information go to

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Article information

Tue 17 Apr 2007, 18:49 BST
Issue No. 2047
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