Language teachers fight back

Amber Flohm
Multicultural Officer/Organiser

The English as a second language (ESL) program will be dismantled in NSW under the guise of local school decision making, University of NSW research fellow Dr Michael Michell warned.

He addressed more than 80 ESL and community languages teachers at Teachers Federation House on May 21, who gathered to learn about the threats Local Schools, Local Decisions poses to their programs, and to plan a course of action.

Dr Michell said “choosing your mix of staff” and the full implementation of Local Schools, Local Decisions would lead to “the erosion, fragmentation, marginalisation and discontinuation of ESL programs in NSW public schools”.

“A localisation agenda for ESL services means the abandonment of a targeted approach to maximising limited ESL resources, and an effective dismantling of a pro-active, systemic educational response to the state’s linguistic diversity,” he said. 

“Under such conditions, educational access will diminish and the number of students with ESL needs unable to receive appropriate assistance will continue to increase.”

Dr Michell presented teachers with a history of the funding of ESL programs at both national and state levels, and the systemic abandonment of ESL support in public schools, centrally and at each school.

Federation Deputy President Gary Zadkovich told the forum about the impact of devolution and cost cutting measures on schools. He spoke of recent representations to the Department around ESL programs and the need for true transparency and accountability in order for the Department to adhere to its own policies and procedures relating to the entitlements of schools’ ESL and community languages programs.

Information was provided to the forum about the role Gonski funds would play in securing long term benefits for students in these areas of multicultural education.

Attendees heard about the fundamental role that ESL and community languages programs play in fostering of community liaison and positive community relations, promoting social inclusion for marginalised groups, and supporting the welfare needs of students and families from communities who are disadvantaged in their participation in education and training.

The forum was updated on the actions Federation has taken to defend these programs and the community alliances that have been formed to ensure inclusivity of all affected parties. Preliminary findings of surveys returned from schools regarding their ESL and community languages entitlements were presented. The forum also heard that Local Schools, Local Decisions fails to guarantee ESL or community languages instruction to those children in need.

Teachers at the meeting asked about unfilled permanent vacancies in ESL and the inadequacy of the Department’s assistance in the transfer process to other vacancies, when entitlements declined in community languages.

Meeting participants were provided with a kit with the tools required to campaign in their local communities. Members who would like access information, the kit and school surveys on ESL and community languages entitlements, should email Federation at or contact their local Organiser or the Multicultural Officer on (02) 9217 2100.