Protest: Restore funding to ESOL: don’t scapegoat migrants

Outside Downing Street,
Whitehall SW1
Wednesday 27 January 2016, 6pm

Called by London Region UCU
Supported by Action for ESOL and Stop the War Coalition

UCU London Region, jointly with Stand Up to Racism, is calling an emergency demonstration on Wednesday 27th January at 6:00pm outside Downing Street.

Speakers include

  • Shakira Martin, NUS Vice President FE
  • Danielle Tiplady, student nurse fighting cuts to the student bursaries
  • Maz Saleem, Stop the War Coalition

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 18 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:

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

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

Press