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ESL programs under threat in NSW

7 August 20140 comments

Funding for ESL (English as a Second Language) programs is under threat in New South Wales with 32 multicultural officers cut from the Department of Education and Communities.

And experts say this is leading to NSW becoming a failed multicultural state.

University of Sydney education researcher Dr Ken Cruikshank told a recent teaching forum that some public schools still did not know those support positions had been axed.

He said he was worried that ESL teachers would disappear altogether.

“ESL teachers are being taken off class because they have to help the latest refugee families that have come into the school,” he said.

“I’m sounding the alarm bells. I don’t know if they’re being heard,” Dr Cruikshank said.

Under the NSW Government’s funding model for schools there was no tied funding for ESL services.

Principals have been given control over their budgets to make decisions about where money should be spent.

Dr Michael Michell from the University of New South Wales told the forum that the state was failing refugees and failing ESL students.

“NSW is rapidly becoming a failing multicultural state,” he said.

“The Government has got a lot to answer for here. It’s not paying attention to its own legislation when it comes to access and equity.”

Dr Michell and Dr Cruickshank head the NSW ESL and Refugee Education Working Party.

It has recommended the 32 axed consultants be incorporated into the new model of support to schools.

Meanwhile, the NSW Teachers Federation is stepping up its campaign to protect ESL programs as they compete with other funding priorities in school budgets.

Refugee Council of Australia spokesman Paul Power said he raised the issue with NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli and was looking at what his organisation could do to support the federation’s campaign.

“Clearly ESL support is critical to the successful settlement of newly arrived refugees and migrants in New South Wales,” he said

Dr Cruickshank said evidence from the UK and the US highlighted the failure of school-based management to meet the challenge of growing linguistic diversity.