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The issue of providing language training in England has grown more crucial in recent years as the pace of immigration on the part of workers to fill skills gap has accelerated.

A recent report revealed that a number of immigrant workers were unable to take up their expected positions in the UK's economy, due largely to their lack of familiarity with the English language. With many of these workers looking to participate in short vocational or training programmes within FE provision, it is important to understand where the currently reported pilot scheme came from and how successfully it may tackle the issue of enabling teachers and trainers to communicate with their learners.

Three Years Ago

The initiative began three years ago when, in 2003, four higher education institutions were asked to work in conjunction with one or more local authorities. These bodies were awarded a Department for Education and Skills (DfES) grant which allowed them to offer training in English as an additional language (EAL) which was to be made available to specialist teachers and teaching assistants.

The programme was intended to counter the worrying trend that had seen a decline in the opportunities on offer to gain accreditation in this field. Wishing to guarantee the quality of the course, the DfES asked Ofsted to conduct a two-year survey to evaluate four pilot courses (two each for teachers and teaching assistants). These courses were added to with a course that joined for the second year and saw the training provider offering the taught course via a new medium, distance learning.

It was hoped that this would be able to offer some evidence of good examples or case studies of effective practice. It was further hoped that these could form the foundations of a national strategy for professional development in the field of EAL. Ofsted were joined in their inspection survey of the programme by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools (HMI), and further evidence and assessment was gathered on the basis of scrutinising the assignments and observing training and field visit sessions.

Interim and Assessed

This report is not the first issued on the subject; a series of interim reports, submitted to the DfES in summer 2005, sought to establish the results of the first years" evaluation of the four courses (two courses for training specialist teachers in EAL and two courses for training teaching assistants). These were made available to the course directors and detailed the problems or issues experienced in the establishment of the courses.

The report was conducted to offer an honest appraisal of the courses, looking at recruitment and retention, the content of courses, the quality of training and tutoring, assignments and assessment, management, quality assurance and monitoring in each of the five courses (counting the distance learning version). As much as the courses were individually assessed in order to ensure that the processes of data gathering and evaluation were fair, certain key indicators were universal.

Jethro Marsh

To read the findings of the report, stay here at FE News!

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