ESOL Fest!

Posted: June 21, 2011 by lambethsaveourservices in Demonstrate, Rally & Occupy!
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No Ifs No Buts, No ESOL Cuts! London students say no to cuts to English classes.

Hundreds of students and teachers from local colleges around London defied the downpours on
Sunday to take to the streets and protest against cuts to English classes.

In the south, students from South Thames College, Lambeth College, Baytree Centre, Horizon
and LAWAS joined lecturers to march through the streets of Brixton and Oval. Protestors
chanted Save Our ESOL as they joined a noisy demonstration by women and children outside
the Baytree Centre before heading to a rally in Kennington Park. Dodging the showers
throughout the afternoon, protestors gathered round banners from colleges and local community
organisations and spoke out about why English classes should not be cut.

One student told how she was now able to go the GP alone and could speak to her doctor
without help, thanks to her ESOL course at the Baytree centre for women. A student from South
America spoke about the need for communities to unite and fight against this racist policy. Mark
Bergfeld of NUS told the crowds “students, immigrants and working class people must unite – it
is in everyone’s interest for people to learn English”.

Many thousands of immigrants, refugees and migrant workers will no longer be able to access
free language classes from September when the government plans to cut eligibility for people
on ‘inactive’ benefits such as Income Support. National and local equality impact assessments
show that these changes will impact disproportionately on black and ethnic minority groups, and
on women in particular – around 70% of women learners will no longer be able to afford to pay
for an ESOL course.

Action for ESOL, the national campaign which was set up in January to fight the new funding
policy, says the effect of these divisive measures on the communities of languages without
English as a first language will be devastating. In impoverished areas of London boroughs such
as Tottenham, Tower Hamlets and Lambeth, where large numbers of the residents do not have
English as their first language, these cuts to their basic right to language learning are coming
on top of cumulative attacks on benefits and legal aid as well as rising costs. This will mean that
more vulnerable people will not be able to lift themselves out of poverty, to find work or better-
paid work and will become isolated from the people and services around them.

FE Colleges are also being faced with course closures and redundancies as the cuts hit. College
of North East London in Tottenham is losing 71% of its ESOL courses. Croydon College is losing
over 50% of its ESOL teachers, and Hackney, Lewisham and City Of Westminster colleges are
also set to face massive losses to courses, students and teachers.

Action for ESOL will continue to fight alongside students and teachers to reverse the funding
policy and keep English classes free for all those who need it. Campaigners say that everyone
has the right to learn the language of the country where they live – not just to find work but as a
basic human right.

Brixton photos: and

Hackney photos:

The next Lambeth SOS planning meeting is Thursday 5 July 6:30pm, in the Vida Walsh Centre in Brixton. See our calendar for all our events.

You can also get regular updates and get involved with the campaign using our email lists.

Thanks to Guy Smallman for the Photos above.


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