Tower Hamlets fights ESOL cuts

Submitted by Newcastle on 16 July, 2009 - 8:14 Author: trainee ESOL teacher

Another half-day strike is set for the afternoon of Thursday 9 July against the cuts to the teaching of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in Tower Hamlets, east London.

Demonstrators will march to the London Assembly to lobby the London mayor Boris Johnson.

The cuts initially proposed by new principal Michael Farley would lead to ESOL teaching being cut in half. 50% of students would lose classes, and up to 60 teachers lose their jobs.

The fightback against this so far has been inspiring, involving demos, walkouts, strikes, students and mobilisation of the community. That this is seen as a sexist and racist attack is clear in messages on the placards and letters from students.

On Monday 6 July the teachers organised non-compliance with a compulsory Continuing Professional Development session that disrupted the session so much that it had to be abandoned.

On Tuesday 7 July a big demonstration was organised outside a governors meeting. Two UCU union representatives went into the meeting to talk to the governors.

There was a half-day strike on Friday 3 July. The college term ends on 10 July, by which time the college’s plans should be clear and individual teachers should know whether they are due to lose their jobs. There are plans to ballot for strike action to take place in September if the job cuts go ahead.

Tower Hamlets College is making a profit, but even if it weren’t, ESOL provision is something that must be defended up and down the country, where it is under threat everywhere. It helps some of the poorest and most isolated people in the country to improve their English language skills and access vital services.

Please send letters of protest to Michael Farley, Principal, Tower Hamlets College, Poplar High Street, London E14 0AF.

Email messages of support to the unions: UCU Branch Chair Poplar (14-19); UCU Branch Secretary (adult); Unison: and Join the Facebook group “Tower Hamlets College – Stop the Cuts”.

“I’m the Branch Secretary of Morley College, which is in Lambeth, I’m also an ESOL teacher there.

We’re facing quite substantial cuts and fee increases which is undoubtedly going to reduce the number of students and the general ESOL provision in our college. It is happening in every other college. Tower Hamlets is experiencing the most drastic cuts of all the London colleges, along with Hackney College.

We need to do as much as we can to fight these cuts, we cannot be allowed to be picked off one by one. We need to show solidarity both today and in general.

As you can see this is a very mixed community here in Tower Hamlets, as it is in most inner city boroughs where this is happening. It’s going to affect people’s ability to get on. Tower Hamlets [UCU] have done really well to get people down here at such short notice. We need to make sure it’s just the beginning.”

John, speaking on the Friday 26 June demonstration against cuts in Tower Hamlets

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