All 1 Debates between Baroness Flather and Earl of Courtown

English Language Classes for Women

Debate between Baroness Flather and Earl of Courtown
Thursday 28th January 2016

(8 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather (CB)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, one of the things that worry me greatly is that those who advise the Prime Minister on policy statements such as this do so without checking with anyone who has any experience of ever having taught English as a second language to Muslim women, Indian women or children. I spent 15 years teaching English as a second language. I taught Indian women and Pakistani women, although I did not have any Bangladeshi women because there were none where I lived. It is not a question of Muslim women; it is a question of those who need to be taught. How can we say we are going to teach Muslim women? There are plenty of Indian women who did not know English and probably still do not. There was a misunderstanding in the early days that once the first generation had been to school everyone would speak English. It did not happen like that because marriages were constantly being made on the subcontinent and wives and husbands were coming over, one or other of whom did not speak English. As a result, you took two steps forward and one and a half back. That is still going on: we still have people whose children come to school with very little English or none, so yes, we have to work on English.

I am retired now as I am so old, but when I was a deputy lieutenant I did some citizenship events. Those participating were supposed to have done a test in the English language. They did not take those tests—somebody took them for them. There are no checks to see whether the person is the person they claim to be; there is no way of telling whether or not this Indian lady is the same as the other Indian lady. It is, again, a big scam. There are even professional driving-test takers—particularly in the Southall area, where there are so many Somalis, who look very much alike. We have to be very careful not to bring in these things and just leave them to happen, because they do not happen.

At the end of the 1960s, I taught women who were working. At lunchtime I used to go and teach them in the factories. I also taught them in their homes and started a club where the women and the children came. I taught in Broadmoor, too, so I think I have pretty well covered the whole gamut of people who need to learn English. I feel very strongly, as a lot of your Lordships do, that everyone has to know some English to function properly. They should be able to go to the doctor and should know who they are going to vote for. However, they do not even usually know what a vote is. In my day, they were just told, “Go and put your cross there”.

It is no good saying that everyone should learn English without thinking how it is to be done. It is not easy to teach a woman English who is probably barely literate in her own language. Not only is she barely literate but she is very frightened of having to cope with this new language. I produced a teaching scheme that I still believe is the only one that can work with women, because I created it by teaching women. As I went along, I saw how they learnt, and then produced the scheme. Unfortunately, they gave it to a person who had produced their own teaching scheme to assess it, who obviously was not going to assess it as being useful, but I would be very pleased to show my teaching scheme to any of your Lordships interested in seeing it. It is a simple distillation of the essentials, but it is done in such a way that you can build on it constantly. After learning the first part you can just about function, and after that it is up to you how far you want to build on it. This is a very specialised area, especially when it comes to teaching women.

I know I am running out of time, but my last point is that Muslim women are ill-served in two ways. One is the discrimination against them, but the other is their treatment within the community. We must never forget how badly they are treated in their own community, and the advent of sharia is something to be fought against. I have spoken to the Home Secretary about my fears and maybe some changes will come.

Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness but it is time for her to sit down.

Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather
- Hansard - -

Another noble Lord took more than four minutes.

Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am afraid not. Who is next?