Schools made ‘wrong decision’ on future of EALs

An attempt to set-up a working group to look at the future of the English as an Additional Language Service (EALs) in East Sussex failed yesterday.

Two days after the consultation process over the future of the service concluded and at a meeting of the full East Sussex County Council (ESCC) Councillor Alan Shuttleworth asked that a panel being set-up to include councillors and council officials to look at options surrounding how the service can be saved.

However Councillor Bob Standley who is the lead member responsible for this area of education said he saw no need, telling members he was capable of making decisions on the issue on his own from the information that was supplied to him.

Money to fund the EALS service has traditionally come from individual schools who pay ESCC to provide the service across the county. This year, however, while primary schools voted unanimously to continue the arrangement and set aside more than £415,000 to do so, secondary schools voted against, choosing instead to keep the money that would previously have gone to ESCC to pay for the EALs service within their own budget.

Mr Standley told yesterday’s full council meeting: “I think they’ve made the wrong decision and I have written to them and told them that.”

Mr Shuttleworth argued that the service was of vital importance as it helped those who needed additional help and support to, “settle, achieve and thrive.” He was concerned there was a risk that the county could lose the skills that the staff working within the EALs service provide.

A public consultation process on the future of the service closed on Sunday and the findings of that consultation are expected later in the year.

Writing recently on Hastings In Focus about the service Dr Felicity Laurence Chair Hastings Community of Sanctuary said: “We consider that without this service from the council it is very likely that many schools will find themselves compelled to reduce their EAL provision and prioritise what funding they have for other areas of curriculum and activity. This will mean that the children not only of incoming refugee families but also from other second language English backgrounds will 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.”

Peter Chowney, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for the Hastings constituency says: “For the sake of good community cohesion, we need this service to continue.”

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