Language Service Under Threat in Hastings Schools
By Gareth Stevens
English as an Additional Language service (EALs) has been running in East Sussex for approximately 25 years. It provides teachers and Bilingual Support Officers to work in schools with students for whom English is not their first language.
At the end of last year, the Secondary School’s Forum decided to withdraw from pooling resources from secondary schools. This will result in a £137,000 cut to EALs funding from April 2019. East Sussex County Council now argues that this reduction in funding makes continuing the existing EAL provision unviable and, despite there being a web based ‘consultation’ process which closed on the 3rd February, it is likely that the existing county level delivery model will not endure beyond April of this year in secondary schools. Of course it is envisaged that, in the absence of a distinct and separately funded service, schools will pick up the baton and provide the necessary support from within their delegated budgets. Given that schools are already struggling to deal with ever depleting funding levels and scarcity of resources in all areas, there is a real worry that EAL provision will move further down their list of priorities. On top of that it is impossible to overstate the difficulties schools will face trying to effectively replace the support previously given by expert and specialist teams based at ESCC.
Consultation has already started with the staff regarding redundancies and if the service is cut, 14 staff, many of whom are very long serving, will lose their jobs.
Whilst the county will continue to provide some EAL support for primary schools in the county, it will be reduced to advice and general support as the team of dedicated specialist EAL teachers will no longer be available. Thus the impact of the cut on both primary and secondary EAL learners will be dramatic.
Put simply EAL is not such an issue in the more rural schools in Sussex, but the decision will have the greatest impact on Hastings and St Leonards since we have a Home Office designation for asylum seeker dispersal. Many of the families in receipt of the service are traumatised and vulnerable and need the security of help from someone to enable their children to access education when they do not speak English. Children of incoming refugee families and other second language English backgrounds will likely receive less than the optimal amount of extra English tuition which they urgently need, on a sustained basis and of high quality, and for long enough to enable them properly to access the curriculum. Devolving this responsibility to schools places an unreasonable burden upon them, and removes the accountability and visibility of the fair and equal provision of this service which should remain with the Council.
The County is trying to blame the secondary schools for the decision, whereas there is no reason why they should not continue the service. The responsibility and decision lie with the County, not the schools. On top of that there has been no attempt to look at different ways of delivering the service or restructuring, as has been done in Brighton & Hove, Wiltshire & Portsmouth.
This cut will have an enormous impact on our most vulnerable community in Hastings & St Leonards and you are urged to get involved in the campaign to save this service.
• Please support this cause by writing to your ESCC councillor – find them here: https://democracy.eastsussex.gov.uk/mgFindMember.aspx For more information about this campaign please follow the ‘Save EALS’ facebook group.
• Also the Hastings Community of Sanctuary campaign at https://hastings.cityofsanctuary.org/2019/01/18/urgent-campaign-to-save-the-english-as-an-additional-language-service-eals
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