Over 100 people attended the Tower Hamlets College Save Esol (English for speakers of other languages) rally, organised by the UCU lecturers’ union on Wednesday of last week.
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, said, 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.
Paul Mackney, joint general secretary of UCU told the meeting, “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!”
He added 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. In Tower Hamlets alone there are 20 posts being axed on top of the 35 that were lost last year.
In City and Islington College there will be 14 redundancies.
The government claim, that the changes to Esol funding were not intended to cut provision but to target it more precisely, was widely ridiculed.
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 entry grades, and these are the ones facing cuts.
This is reflected all across London and flies in the face of government claims that they want to reduce the waiting lists.
The meeting went on to discuss the London-wide demonstration on Saturday 28 April. There will be three feeder marches converging on Hackney Town hall at 2pm on the day.
These will come from Highbury and Islington, Altab Ali Park in Whitechapel and the Homerton Hospital in Hackney.
Oliur Rahman, a Respect councillor in Tower Hamlets, pledged full support for the demonstration and stated that Respect would be raising the question of the Esol cuts at the next full council meeting. There were also speeches from Tower Hamlets and Hackney NUT teachers’ union.
The Liberal Democrat councillor, Azizur Rahman Khan also pledged his support for the campaign.
Demonstrate Saturday 28 April
Hackney: meet 1pm, Homerton hospital, Homerton Grove, march to Hackney town hall. Tower Hamlets: meet 12 noon, Altab Ali Park, Whitechapel. City & Islington: meet 12 noon at Highbury and Islington tube. For further information go to www.uculeft.org