From education to employment

Funding should be for areas where it will increase community integration.

Future Government funding for ESOL classes will be targeted at immigrants planning to settle in the UK rather than short-term economic migrants.

Launching a consultation, the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills John Denham announced today that public funding for English language teaching should be concentrated where it will have the biggest impact on community cohesion and integration.

The Government halted free ESOL classes last year, claiming costs had tripled since 2001 and were unsustainable. Since then, learners have been encouraged to contribute towards the cost of their courses. Employers of migrant workers are also expected to meet the cost of lessons.

Mr Denham said: “The Government is committed to promoting community cohesion and integration and good English language skills have a vital role to play in this work.”

He added: “We must ensure that the priority is to reach long-term residents for whom poor English is a real barrier to integration in work or in the community.”

Local authorities are being asked how to prioritise ESOL funding to best achieve integration in their area. Other groups and organisations are also being invited to contribute to the consultation on areas such as what incientives could be provided to employers to meet the cost of workers lessons.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) gave a cautious welcome to the announcement but expressed reservations: “We are pleased the Government has changed its mind and recognised the importance of English language lessons.

“But the plan to target resources is an invidious one, and will lead to a two-tier system of deserving and undeserving migrants. If the Government believes being able to speak English is a key to integration, it seems strange to penalise migrants who are in work and are already trying to integrate and contribute to their communities.

“Employers have a very poor track record in providing language training ““ and indeed any training for their staff – so it seems foolish to base plans on them funding English lessons.”

Alan Tuckett, Director of National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), said: “I warmly welcome Governments recognition of the key importance of provision of English for Speakers of Other Languages to community cohesion, and that it continues to consult widely on policy development in a rapidly evolving field. Access to a common language is a pre-condition to effective participation at work and in community life.”

Related Articles