esol teaching: in whose interests?

by Alice Robson

‘many of them [Jewish migrants] do not speak English and they mix very little with Englishmen…they are a race apart.’ (article published as part of a collection The Destitute Alien in Britain, 1892)

‘One staggering statistic exposes the astonishing speed at which Britain is ceasing to be recognisable as a nation. Figures released yesterday reveal that as many as 14 per cent of our primary school children… speak English only as a second language, if at all… there are schools in some areas with high immigrant populations where barely a handful of children speak English as their mother tongue.’ (Daily Mail, 18 May 2009)

From Jewish workers arriving in London’s East End in the late nineteenth century to the diverse groups of people migrating to the UK today, the ability of migrants to speak English has long been a preoccupation of politicians and the right-wing press. This has, however, never been as significant as today, when as part of the UK’s increasingly draconian system of immigration control, the right of non-EU citizens to British citizenship, settle in the UK and soon even to enter the country requires certain attainment in English. Most affected are those migrants who have not had formal education in their country of origin due to factors including conflict, economic pressures or gender inequality, or are unable to access provision in the UK. Continue reading “esol teaching: in whose interests?”