On Thursday 24 March the campaign Action for ESOL called a day of action against the cuts in funding for ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) courses.
Government plans will see full fee remission restricted to students claiming “active benefits”. All students claiming “inactive” benefits, such as income support, disability allowance and housing benefit will have to pay up to £1200 a year for their English classes. Students on low incomes, spouses of low-wage workers or benefit claimants and refugees and asylum seekers will also be obliged to pay.
Around 500 people attended a teach-in (out!) in central London with theatre, speakers, and other activities. At 1pm the protestors walked to Downing St to hand in a petition with 20,000 signatures.
Local actions took place in other areas including a sizeable demonstration in Nottingham.
Meanwhile further education colleges are preparing to make big cuts and job losses and as in the past ESOL classes re being disproportinately affected.
Funding is not the only issue in this campaign — some colleges want to set up private language colleges and others are begining to use (untrained or undertrained) voluntary teachers.
The long-term future of ESOL provision will depend in large part on the ability of college education workers to fight wider cuts and job losses.