Appeal over free classes
STUDENTS from Huddersfield and Dewsbury are lobbying the Government on plans to restrict access to free English language courses.
About 15 lecturers and students from Huddersfield Technical College joined a lobby at Parliament, along with 12 students and three staff from Dewsbury College.
They were among 50 organisations and 140 MPs at the rally, organised by the University and College Union.
They were voicing their opposition to Government plans to stop free English for speakers of other languages classes.
Union joint secretary Paul Mackney said: "There has been an astonishing response to the UCU's call for a united campaign to save the classes.
"The Government has got to make a choice between policies which will help create the social cohesion they say they want or policies which will contribute to social division."
Due to high demand the Government wants everyone but the unemployed and people on benefits to pay for 30% of the cost of their classes from August this year.
This will go up to 50% in 2010.
The UCU thinks the fees will be too large a burden on people who need the classes most; refugees, asylum seekers, low-paid migrant workers and people in ethnic minorities.
Student and staff representatives from Huddersfield Technical College attended the lobby and met MP Barry Sheerman.
Alex Stevenson is a senior co-ordinator for the classes at the Technical College.
He said many of the students would not be able to afford to pay for classes.
"It costs money to run the classes. Compared to the cost of translation and interpreting services it probably isn't that much.
"The students are not necessarily the people to find the money from. The college supports students with childcare and travel expenses, because otherwise they wouldn't even have enough money to get to college."
There are 900 people taking free classes through the Technical College, both on the main campus and at other centres, including Huddersfield Irish Centre.
Student representative Fazzaneh Hegri said free English classes were vital to people trying to integrate and find work in Britain.
Fazzaneh came to Huddersfield from Iran as an asylum seeker three years ago. She has been attending the classes at the Irish Centre for two years.
She said: "Not to be able to speak to people is not OK. If I have a problem I need to tell people what has happened."
The Government says if asylum seekers are allowed to stay they will be eligible for free classes.
Dewsbury College delegates met their MPs, Shahid Malik and Mike Wood.