Learning English – at a price!

In a shock announcement, the government’s Learning & Skills Council has proposed to withdraw the existing entitlement to free classes for adults who need to learn English as a Second Language (ESOL).

From August free ESOL classes will only be available to people on means-tested benefits and tax credits. Asylum seekers will have their entitlement to free English lessons cut. Other courses could also become unaffordable for asylum seekers. The Messenger spoke to Abdullah Al-Yafeai, who presently benefits from free classes:

Abdullah Al-Yafeai at the Yemeni Education and Training Centre in Fir Vale
Abdullah Al-Yafeai at the Yemeni Education and Training Centre in Fir Vale

“This loss of funding will have a terrible impact upon asylum seekers. From next year their prospects will be very poor.The Government say they want an integrated society, but this will leave people isolated. Without funding, classes simply cannot be provided.”

Abdullah came to Britain from the Yemen six months ago, and soon started an English course at the Yemeni Centre on Earl Marshal Road. Abdullah has a Bachelor of Science degree from India, and can study on his own, but others need more support:

“Women will be amongst the worst affected. It is not only the learning aspect.Without these classes many people will be home alone all day, which is very bad for people, leading maybe to illness and depression. Learning helps people to integrate and be active in society.”

“This is a terribly unjust decision, for asylum seekers; wider society and the country as a whole.What they do for us here at the YCA is good for the learner and for society. If you don't know English, you can't communicate. It is as if they wanted asylum seekers to be isolated.”


Dozens of organisations, including the Children's Society, the Refugee Council and national trades unions attended a conference to launch a national campaign against the cuts and over 100 MPs have put their name to a parliamentary motion condemning the proposals. A lobby of parliament is being organised for February 28th. The college lecturers union has also opposed the plan, with NATFHE leader, Paul Mackney, pointing out that women and black and ethnic minority groups are most likely to be affected.

In Burngreave, the Forum’s Adult Learning Group has voted to support the national campaign; to raise the matter with the Area Panel and to link with others opposed to the cuts in ESOL. To get involved, phone the BCAF office on 272 8008.

by Tony Tingle & Richard Belbin

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The content on this page was added to the website by Derrick Okrah on 2007-02-01 09:48:03.
The content of the page was last modified by Lisa Swift on 2007-02-04 14:22:41.

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