The TES is reporting that classes in English for speakers of other languages (Esol) should be free for newly-arrived asylum seekers and people with low literacy in their first language, as well as for the unemployed, according to a new report.
Unlike Scotland and Wales, England currently has no national Esol strategy. This means that providers around the country often have overlapping programmes and different fee policies, which experts say has led to duplication of provision and confusion for learners.
Next week, the National Association for Teaching English and Community Languages to Adults (Natecla) will unveil its own draft strategy calling for a major overhaul in how Esol is taught, coordinated and funded.
Natecla co-chair Jenny Roden told TES that a national Esol strategy would “give the sector the stability it needs and deserves”. The focus of funding on employability excluded many of the most disadvantaged learners, she added.
“Some providers are willing to ‘take the hit’ and fully fund people in these categories,” Ms Roden said. “But others aren’t, and funding for essential costs of learning is restricted to those who qualify for full funding only.”
The total funding within the skills budget available for Esol dropped by almost half between 2009-10 and 2014-15. Last year, the Skills Funding Agency announced that all funding for “Esol plus mandation” programmes would be removed. The Association of Colleges (AoC) said that this would affect 16,000 Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants with poor spoken English skills. Earlier this year, then prime minister David Cameron announced £20 million to fund Esol courses for Muslim women.
The Demos thinktank has also called for a national Esol strategy. Ian Wybron, head of public services and welfare, told TES: “A national strategy must better our understanding of the scale of need for Esol, ensure accountability and oversight systems are fit for purpose, put the interests of learners and teachers at centre stage, as well as putting Esol on a surer financial footing.”
Do you think it’s important to provide English classes to those with poor language? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter. ~ Sophie
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