This Saturday, there is a National Demonstration about the funding cuts to adult education. As an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teacher, I’m going to the protest on Saturday with my students. Why? Because these cuts are an attack on ESOL teachers and migrants everywhere.If they go ahead as planned, ESOL teachers in Further Education colleges across the country will lose their jobs. As it is, the ESOL students I teach in South London are already unable to find college places to learn English. There are 6-month waiting lists for local college courses, and free childcare has been cut meaning many parents on low income are already excluded. This situation will be made even worse. Prime Minister David Cameron talks about how important it is for migrants to learn English. But at the same time, he is quietly destroying the provision with makes that possible.
The Situation So Far
Further Education Colleges are at the heart of communities across the UK. They are a place where people can access education to change their lives, and get important second chances to gain educational qualifications or training. Their courses allow people to move jobs, retrain after redundancy, get the A-levels they need to access Uni and, for migrants, learn the English they crucially need for UK life. Adult Education is an investment in people. And I believe this investment is not a frivolous ‘extra’ that can just be disregarded in the face of government debt. For one thing, there are all sorts of economic returns from this investment for our economy (more people in work, education, training and back into jobs). But this also comes down to what kind of society we want to live in. It is inhumane to write off those who didn’t get A-levels the first time round, or the migrants who can’t afford expensive language school fees on their cleaning salary but want to learn English so they can talk to their neighbours, or practice their profession at the UK. An attack on Adult Education is an attack on those already marginalised in our society.
These are desperate times. Adult education has been cut by a third since 2010. Each college has already lost around 100 teachers. This is why it is so important we stand up now to oppose these latest cuts. Adult education is hanging by a thread. The Association of Colleges (AoC) represents 336 institutions in England, says: “Adult education and training in England will not exist by 2020 if the government continues with its swathe of cuts.”
We need to act. On Saturday, at 12.30pm I will be at the Waterloo branch of Lewisham and Southwark
College with my students, ready to join up with a range of other teachers and students outside City Hall. We’ll be doing a teach-in, because when the Government threatens us with violent, barbaric cuts, we will respond with a display of our creativity, dignity and togetherness. Protest isn’t just about being in opposition to change, it’s also about celebrating and protecting the beautiful future that you believe in. We believe that enriching learning opportunities should continue to be available for diverse adults in every community, so we’re going to create some learning opportunities right outside City Hall! I am proud to be an ESOL teacher and I am proud to take action with my students to protect something that is important to all of us.
We invite you to join us, even if you’ve never taken part in a protest before.
EFA London ESOL Teacher