Defence members celebrate language school reprieve
03 Apr 2012
A specialist language school dedicated to training Ministry of Defence personnel has secured a reprieve after campaigning by the union highlighted how its closure would compound previous short-sighted judgments.
The MOD announced plans at the beginning of the year to cut the core activities of its Defence School for Languages (DSL) in Beaconsfield, affecting tuition in French, Italian, Spanish and Russian among other languages, and removing the posts of 21 linguistic specialists, as part of the overall cuts facing the department.
While language tuition for countries where MOD has on-going defence operations is funded separately by the Treasury and not threated by departmental cuts, speculation remained that that would move to London when DSL's headquarters in Beaconsfield close later in the year as part of MOD's asset reduction commitment.
But Prospect called for an urgent rethink and highlighted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's experience as an warning, following its decision to commit an extra £1m per year to reinstating its language training provision just five years after the school was axed in a bid to save £1.5m and with the loss of 104 specialist jobs.
The union's concerns prompted a number of MPs to raise questions in the House over the issue, not least whether opportunities for a shared facility had been explored, prompting a commitment from Defence Minster Nick Harvey that possible links with the Foreign Office would be looked at.
Three months later and staff at the Beaconsfield school have received formal notification that the decision to axe non-operational language training has been reversed with funding now available from the centre to continue training.
While staff have yet to learn the location(s) of the language school – the Beaconsfield site is still set to close sometime this year – news that the expertise behind the services will not be lost or left to languish with limited opportunities for departmental redeployment has been greeted as a victory.
Prospect MOD rep and former DSL tutor Mark Turner said: "It is welcome news that the MOD has realised the importance of all languages, both operational and non-operational, in both the current and future military and diplomatic environment. Maintaining an in-house, properly resourced capability is by far the best option for the MoD, and possibly other government departments."