Stephen Timms, Member of Parliament for East Ham, met on Friday with ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) students at Priory Park community centre.  He was visiting the centre to discuss students’ concerns over government plans to reduce funding for their courses.  His visit followed a letter to him from one of the students.  The students had also just been informed that classes at Priory Park itself will close this summer, although classes will continue to be offered in other centres.

ESOL courses currently provide free tuition in English for non-English speakers on benefits.  The coalition government plans to restrict free tuition to those on benefits who are also looking for work.  Only about one in ten of the students at Priory Park will qualify for free tuition under the new rules.  Women who have come to Britain to join their husbands, who are not themselves yet in a position to start looking for a job, will lose out.  Many students told Mr Timms they are worried that they will be unable to afford the new charges, although Newham Adult Learning Service (NALS) is aiming to keep them to a minimum.

After spending nearly an hour with the students and their teachers, Stephen said: “The students at Priory Park told me they wanted to be able to help their children at school and to speak to their GP.  Being able to speak English is vital.  The Government recognises that, so it seems folly to be making it so much harder for people to learn our language. ”

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AuthorStephen Timms