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English ‘second language’ course fees waived by New City college group for east London adult students

PUBLISHED: 14:00 04 July 2018 | UPDATED: 17:54 04 July 2018

New City College principal Gerry McDonald who is waiving English language fees and the Arbour Square Stepney and other campuses where courses are run. Pictures: Mike Brooke

New City College principal Gerry McDonald who is waiving English language fees and the Arbour Square Stepney and other campuses where courses are run. Pictures: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Fees for learning English as a second language are being scrapped in a “bold move” by east London’s New City college group.

New City College principal Gerry McDonald. Picture: Mike BrookeNew City College principal Gerry McDonald. Picture: Mike Brooke

The colleges are waiving fees for the courses from September—despite having faced years of government education spending cuts.

The move opens up the courses being run at Tower Hamlets College in Poplar, Hackney Community college in Shoreditch and Redbridge College in Ilford.

The government has had to bring in new funding rules following protests and years of budget cuts which now mean many adults can study without having to pay fees in the academic year starting September—but not all students.

So the New City group has decided to extend free enrolment to all adults learning English as their second language—whatever their financial circumstances.

New City's Arbour Square campus in Stepney where English language courses are run. Picture: Mike BrookeNew City's Arbour Square campus in Stepney where English language courses are run. Picture: Mike Brooke

“We are large enough to think boldly and act flexibly,” group principal Gerry McDonald said. “This will be for the benefit of our communities.

“We welcome the new funding rules—but recognise that fees would still be a barrier for some of the people who most need to study English.”

The group is one of the country’s largest providers of English language courses, with the resources “to make sure that this significant group of east Londoners are not disadvantaged”.

It follows five years of campaigning by the colleges and the unions against government education cuts which threatened the future of the language courses.

College principal Gerry McDonald interviewing for courses at Tower Hamlets campus. Picture: Mike BrookeCollege principal Gerry McDonald interviewing for courses at Tower Hamlets campus. Picture: Mike Brooke

Tower Hamlets College, now part of New City, joined a mass lobby of Parliament when it had its budget cut in 2015 by 14 per cent, followed by a further unexpected cut of four per cent.

Mr McDonald accused the government at the time of “being short-sighted not investing in the future”.

Funding for courses for foreign language speakers was stopped that year, resulting in lecturers being made redundant.

The UCU lecturers’ union general secretary Sally Hunt had called it “perverse to make enormous cuts” when migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers wanted a better chance of “getting work and taking part in British society”.

Tower Hamlets College lobbied the government because the cuts had affected adult courses including English second language classes at the Stepney campus.

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