DEMO : Restore funding to ESOL: Don’t scapegoat migrants

Save ESOL protest. Brixton, South London 19-6-11

Photo © Guy Smallman

UCU London Region, jointly with Stand Up to Racism, is calling an emergency demonstration next week on Wednesday 27th January at 6:00pm outside Downing Street. Supported by other organisations, details to follow. Shakira Martin NUS Vice President FE confirmed speaker.

Many colleagues will have been shocked and angered to hear Muslims scapegoated in a radio interview by David Cameron for not integrating into British society because they don’t speak English.

He announced £20m ‘extra’ funding for ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) as part of a plan to integrate Muslim women.

This is a scandal. There has been a furore in the press and I’m calling on you to join me next Wednesday at Downing Street to challenge this.

The sheer hypocrisy is staggering when people are desperate to learn English and are being turned away because of funding cuts by this and the last government he led.
ESOL funding has been cut by £160m since 2008. £45m was cut in the summer two weeks before the start of the new term, on top of the 24% cut to the Adult Skills Budget earlier last year.

It is frustrating to see the PM try to make political capital out of our students when we know the reality is that they are being denied the right to learn English. David Cameron did exactly the same thing in the summer when he spoke about how women needed English, and then went on to cut ESOL provision two days later.

Two thirds of ESOL students are women. They were the hardest hit by cuts and £20m will fall far short of what is necessary, especially when we consider that how many ESOL providers have lengthy waiting lists. At Lambeth College where I teach ESOL, the number of teachers has been cut from 65 to 31 in the last 12 months.

The language the PM used to single out Muslims is both inflammatory and islamophobic. It’s part of a racist narrative that says people don’t want to learn English and don’t want to integrate. It simply isn’t true. David Cameron suggests that if Muslim parents don’t speak English this could lead their children to become terrorists. It is dangerous to conflate these issues.

If the government are saying 850,000 people need English. Why only target a small proportion of Muslims? People of other faiths, or non, as well as men need to speak English too.

The government will implement plans in October for spousal migrants (and their children) to take a test after two and a half years to demonstrate English language improvement or face deportation.

His comments have caused widespread concern and criticism including from Baroness Warsi, John Prescott MP, Andy Burnham MP, Shabana Mahmood MP, Leader of the Lib Dems Tim Farron, Michael Rosen, Sally Hunt UCU General Secretary and more.

We should condemn these comments and call on David Cameron to restore ESOL funding and stop scapegoating Muslims.

We should promote the Action for ESOL Manifesto and hold meetings with local MPs and in our colleges and communities on it to restart a debate about what is required.

More urgently we have to unite to speak out and stop Islamophobia and scapegoating of Muslims in our schools, colleges and communities.

Join me on Wednesday.

What we want:

– Restore the funding for ESOL

– Free English classes for migrants and asylum seekers.

– Popularise the Action for ESOL manifesto

Mandy Brown
UCU London Regional (FE) Secretary
& Action for ESOL

Action for Esol Manifesto

Press release: ‘Passive tolerance’ of separate communities must end, says PM

Cameron under fire over English language skills warning for Muslim women.

* According to the Dailymail the PM’s proposal, the women would be expected to have reached the A2 – elementary – level after two-and-a-half years, and B1 – intermediate – after five years.

New ESOL funding for Muslim women: NATECLA’s response

Prime minister’s call for people to learn English exposes cuts to language classes

If Cameron wants female migrants to learn English, why did he cut ESOL funding?

Cameron ‘stigmatising Muslim women’ with English language policy

Are David Cameron’s English lessons for Muslim women simply reversing his own cuts?

Cameron announces ‘funding’ for English classes six months after £45 million cuts

As an English teacher of Muslim women I know that Cameron’s plans are hypocritical and demonising
Cameron’s new English courses for women ‘don’t make up for £160m Esol cuts’, colleges warn

David Cameron tells Muslim women to learn English – after cutting English language classes

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