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Protest Against ESOL Cuts in Birmingham

IMCista | 02.05.2007 21:15 | Mayday 2007 | Social Struggles | Workers' Movements | Birmingham

The University and College Union (UCU) did a stall in Birmingham city centre on Mayday to protest against government plans to cut free English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes for asylum seekers and refugees. Lots of leaflets were handed out and many signatures were gathered on the "Save ESOL" petition. The event was part of a massive campaign supported by many unions and groups.

They were also joined by members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), who were protesting against plans to close local blood processing and testing sites around the country and merge them into three "supercentres" in Bristol, Manchester and Colindale. The National Blood Service staff have been in industrial dispute with the management for about a year over these "unworkable reconfiguration plans".

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) issued its annual statement of priorities, called "Raising our Game", on 18 October, 2006, announcing that English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) learning will no longer attract automatic fee remission, except for "priority groups", which will include people who are unemployed or are receiving income-based benefits. This means adult asylum seekers will no longer be eligible for free tuition. Refugees who are unemployed or in receipt of income-related benefits will still be eligible for free ESOL tuition. However, those who are not claiming benefits will be required to pay. Starting in August 2007, colleges will classify all asylum seekers as international students (although colleges do have the discretion to charge asylum seekers home student fees or waive fees altogether). Those who have been granted refugee status, humanitarian protection, discretionary leave or exceptional leave to remain will continue to be classed as home students.