UPDATED ‘Wrong decision’ is reversed – language service is saved

Secondary schools is East Sussex have changed their minds and agreed to continue to fund the English as an Additional Language Service (EALs).

Felicity Laurence Chair of Hastings Community of Sanctuary is delighted by the news she told Hastings In Focus: We are very pleased at this change of heart by the Secondary Schools Forum. Working as we do with children and families whose ability to participate in their new community is so dependent upon learning English really well, we are happy that support for the EAL Service will continue for a further year… We will be continuing our campaign to support the continuation of this excellent service without further disruption in the longer term.”

It was announced at the end of last week that the secondary schools that had initially said they would not pay for the service in the coming year, had reversed that decision, saving the service from potential closure.

Last Tuesday at a meeting of East Sussex County Council, Councillor Bob Standley who has responsibility for education said he believed the schools had made the wrong decision in refusing to fund the service and told councillors: “…I have written to them and told them that,” he said.

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.

The EALs service has been running in East Sussex for around 25 years. It provides teachers and Bilingual Support Officers to work with students in schools where English is not their first language. There are currently 250 children and young people accessing the service across the county so far this academic year and EALS receives new referrals throughout the year, so the number is rising weekly.  The total for 2017-18 was 471.

The campaign leaflet

The decision by secondary school s not to fund EALs resulted in a £137,000 black hole in its funding. A public consultation looking at future options for the service only finished at the weekend.

An email from ESCC yesterday confirmed to staff the service was secure for the coming year at least and supporters of the service recognise there is still a lot to do to shore up the longer term viability of the service.

The National Education Union (NEU) issued a statement last night saying it was “celebrating”.

Dave Brinson, Branch Secretary for the NEU in East Sussex said:”My members working in the service have argued all along that it is efficient and sustainable.  It is a vital service supporting some of the most vulnerable students in our schools.  Hundreds of parents, teachers and other members of the local community have tirelessly lobbied their local councillors over this issue and should rightly be proud of achieving today’s result.

“My members look forward to working positively with schools and the local authority in making sure that this vital service can have a long-term future.”

Jay Kramer, whose column in Hastings In Focus was one of the first to highlight the plight of EALs was delighted with the outcome, saying: “It’s brilliant news. I am delighted
that this vital service will continue for another year and hopefully into the future.

“It demonstrates what organising within the community, through the Trade Unions and the Labour Party can achieve. So many people got involved in the campaign, it just goes to show that we do have power to affect change if we mobilise positively with grassroots organisation.”

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