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Defend ESOL! Support Tower Hamlets College staff

October 12, 2009

Our team of councillors hopes you will join us at a special deputation to the Tower Hamlets Council, this coming Wednesday, 14th October, 6pm at the Town Hall. It has been called by concerned staff and residents affected by the recent cuts to provision of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes at Tower Hamlets College.

Below is an open statement written by some of those affected in which they outline the issues and the necessity for funding to secure proper ongoing ESOL provision in Tower Hamlets.

Respect has tabled a motion at the meeting of the Council and will be demanding reinstatement of lost ESOL programmes, without which many in our community, especially women, are left isolated.


We are writing to request a deputation to the above council meeting in order to highlight the effect of cuts to ESOL provision and loss of experienced ESOL teachers at Tower Hamlets College.

In the recent cuts we lost 11 experienced ESOL teachers. Hundreds of student places were lost, especially in the Community Outreach department where women only courses with childcare provision were cut, all of which had been running for many years in partnership with the local community. These courses have had an immeasurable effect on the lives of vast numbers of disadvantaged and isolated local women and their families. At present 10 Outreach centres have had their provision cut with the loss of twenty courses.

Cuts of this type especially worrying when ‘A New Approach to ESOL’ states very clearly that priority is to be given to those at risk of exclusion. By closing existing community classes run by THC, many more ESOL students are at even greater risk of exclusion. A statement recently issued by Natecla expresses concern about this, ‘From NATECLA we welcome any move to tackle barriers to provision, particularly for women at E1 and E2 with childcare needs and for those who are not able to either pay fees or evidence hardship. We hope that local authorities will be persuaded to draw on the extensive knowledge and expertise held by many large colleges and other providers, as well as voluntary and community groups.’

LLU+ , specialist ESOL Unit at South Bank University have also raised concerns about the cuts in Tower Hamlets College, stating that, ‘We urge colleges and other providers to do everything possible to ensure that ESOL provision is maintained and that the considerable ESOL expertise in our workforce is protected.’

Tower Hamlets ESOL College teams are highly acclaimed both within the borough and nationally. The experience built up over many years has allowed the College ESOL teams to play an important role in the development of ESOL research, curriculum and innovation. The College is currently involved in the following ESOL teacher education work and research.

Teacher Education

Institute of Education PGCE ESOL literacy
ActionAid- Reflect for ESOL
LLU+ South Bank University , Basic ESOL Literacy

Recent Research

ESOL effective practice Project (Baynnam et al NRDC)
The Right Course (Simpson Cooke and Baynham NRDC)
ESOL and Citizenship (Cooke)

Melanie Cooke, researcher at Kings College, London, highlights the fact that Tower Hamlets College has been chosen again and again to take part on in national research projects,‘ because of its exemplary practice and because the staff at THC are amongst the most committed, professional and collaborative we have ever worked with.’

The impact of the recent cuts will be huge for students, the local community and also for the whole field of ESOL in which Tower Hamlets College plays a part. Tower Hamlets College ESOL departments are an important resource for ESOL nationally and has a key role in the development of provision in the borough. This wealth of expertise and ESOL resources provides maximum value for money for ESOL.

Given the loss of 20 THC provided ESOL courses to the community and the subsequent detrimental effect on the lives many in the local community we would urge the elected members of the council to take action to redress this attack on a vital local education service.

Saleh Ahmed Lecturer Tower Hamlets College Resident
Becky Winstanley ESOL tutor Tower Hamlets College
John Budis UCU Branch Secretary Tower Hamlets College
Roberto Foth UCU Branch secretary Tower Hamlets College
Michelle Holmes ESOL Outreach Co-ordinator

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