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Glasgow bilingual centre for immigrants faces closure

Was beneficial for those knowing little or no English

26th May, 2011: A ground breaking back up unit for the children of refugees, asylum-seekers and other migrants who speak not much or no English could be shut down under controversial suggestion.

Glasgow City Council is mulling over closing up its city-wide bilingual support unit for secondary students, blaming the step on the loss of £186,000 in funding from the UK Borders Agency (UKBA).

Officials insist locking up the unit will have no effect on educational quality because staff will be kept and used to support pupils in schools across the city, possibly in smaller specialist units.

Critics of the proposal argue the unit, located at Shawlands Academy on the south side of the city, was the best way to educate pupils who have know little or no English – termed EAL (English as an Additional Language).

They dispute and insist the needs of pupils cannot fully be met by class teachers or specialists visiting for a couple of hours a week at most.

Maureen Kilgour, an EAL specialist from the Glasgow branch of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said Glasgow would not pass in its duty towards weak children if it abandoned the unit.

She asserted that the bilingual unit had been exceptionally useful in providing the helpless children the required skills. The new arrivals to Scotland were endowed with skill they need to learn English and integrate, make progress and achieve in the country schools.

Kilgour added that this was a shocking offer and a failure to understand the difficult needs of bilingual learners, who need committed support in one place and steadiness of teaching.

She said if the unit would close down it would put these vulnerable pupils, who were often also dealing with complex social needs, at a huge disadvantage and they would simply fall through the net.

On the other hand a council spokeswoman said it would continue to ensure EAL pupils got the best possible support. She elaborated due to the UKBA contract for asylum-seekers no longer being with the council, education no longer got £186,000 to support children with EAL.

She said no decision had been taken yet and they were reviewing the EAL service to address the shortfall, including the secondary EAL unit.

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