Providing ESOL services is a cost for the school primarily as we must hire additional staff for that. In the past, and in many other schools ESOL and indeed learning support has been funded by an additional charge because of the need to provide resources for it. We consulted with parents of ESOL students and accepted that we should not charge for ESOL lessons during regular school classes. The argument, which we accepted, was that ESOL students would be missing a class, Art for instance, for which they had been billed through school fees. For this reason, only ESOL classes held outside regular class time will attract a charge.
Prior to this year, ESOL was held during class time. Ironically, in primary school, the ESOL students lost their regular English to go to ESOL. This resulted in different English rather than more English which is what ESOL students actually need. Going forward, ESOL classes will be in addition to rather than instead of regular English. We have made attendance compulsory until students attain a reasonable grasp of English. This is in the interests of the child.
It is tempting to see this as a tax on East Asians, the primary consumers of ESOL services. This, however, is unwarranted. We would do the same if we had a large population of, say, non-English speaking Russians in which case the Russians would be complaining about that. We are absolutely thrilled with the support shown to the school by the Japanese and Chinese community and look forward to providing an effective ESOL programme that supports children from these and other communities.