BIS and DfE
United Kingdom

Proposed cuts in public funding for ESOL

People who move to the UK need English language skills to access training, gain employment and participate in society. Enabling new arrivals and longer-term residents to fulfil their potential is essential. Migrants bring with them valuable skills, qualifications and experience which can lie untapped unless they have the chance to learn English.

The best way to achieve this is through publicly funded English language provision known as ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages).

Adequate and sustained funding of ESOL is not a luxury. It is an essential public service. This was recognized by Skills for Life, the national strategy for the improvement of adult literacy and numeracy. Thousands of migrants achieved levels of English which enabled them to join the jobs market, access training and participate more fully in their local communities. The strategy created a national curriculum for ESOL, training and qualifications for ESOL teachers and a research centre, the National Research and Development Centre. But now, the funding made available through the strategy is under threat and the good work begun by Skills for Life could be lost.

The government proposals indicate that:

- Full funding will be only be available for unemployed people on job-seeker’s allowance (JSA) or on employment support allowance (ESA), described as ‘active benefits’.

People on other benefits, described as ‘non-active benefits’, such as income support, or on low wages, and their dependants will have to pay the co-funded rate of 50% or the full cost of the course.

- Asylum seekers and people on Section 4 support will not be eligible for full public funding - they will be expected to pay 50%.

- There will be no public funding for ESOL in the workplace. Learners or employers will be expected to pay full cost.

- Since 2007, ESOL learners on benefits or low incomes have been able to get help towards fees from the discretionary Learner Support Fund for ESOL. We fear this will be unavailable in 2011-12.

- The Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) grant which provided support for 16 - 18 year old ESOL learners will be withdrawn.

- The weighting for ESOL and Literacy, which was reduced from 1.4 to 1.2 in 2009, is to be further reduced to 1.0.

We predict devastating effects on ESOL provision, teachers' jobs and ESOL students. We believe that people on low wages, women and asylum seekers are likely to be worst hit.

We urge the government to:

- reconsider the approach to ESOL outlined in the 'Investing in Skills for Sustainable Growth' Strategy.

- recognise the contribution that migrants make to the economy and society as a whole.

- prioritise publicly funded ESOL provision for low paid and economically vulnerable people.

ESOL students are keen to learn the language and integrate into society. In order to do this they need programmes that enable them to do so.

We pledge our support to defend ESOL.

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The Action for ESOL petition to BIS and DfE was written by Sally Bird and is in the category Education at GoPetition.