There’s a big campaign underway to save the English as an Additional Language Service (EALs).
The EALs service has been running in East Sussex for approximately 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.
At the end of last year, the secondary School’s Forum representatives decided to withdraw from pooling resources from secondary schools and that resulted in a £137,000 cut to EALS funding from April this year but the primary representatives voted unanimously to continue pooling resources which secured more than £400,000 for EALS to continue delivering support to primary schools but East Sussex County Council (ESCC) has determined that this reduction in funding makes the provision of the service unviable and is currently running a web based ‘consultation’ about the future of EALS. To find out more about the consultation process and to take part by making your views known please just click on the following link:
The closing date for the consultation is February 3rd so there is not much time. People are being urged to fill in the questionnaire and spread the word to others to do the same. Also, to write to local county councillors, although there is a postcard campaign being run from the National Education Union as well.
Consultation has already started with the staff regarding redundancies. If the service is cut, then the secondary service will stop at the end of March and the primary one in August with 14 staff being made redundant, many of whom are very long serving.
This decision will have the greatest impact on Hastings and St Leonards since we have a Home Office designation for asylum seekers 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. The school’s forum minutes are on the East Sussex County Council website and at the meeting which made the decision on September 28th last year there were very few voting members present and no representation from Hastings and St Leonards.
The county council is trying to blame the secondary schools for the decision, whereas there is no reason why they should not continue the service. Their responsibility and decision lie with the county, not with the schools. There has been no attempt to look at different ways of delivering the service or restructuring, as has been done in Brighton and Hove and in Wiltshire and Portsmouth. The schools do not want the service to stop.
This cut will have an enormous impact on our most vulnerable community in Hastings and St Leonards and I urge you to get involved in the campaign.
Jay Kramer is a former deputy leader of Hastings Borough Council and former East Sussex county councillor. She’s a community activist and Labour Party member and officer in Hastings.