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NATECLA statements

NATECLA response to the Home Office Border Agency’s document STATEMENT OF INTENT: FAMILY MIGRATION (June 2012)


NATECLA is the professional association for teaching ESOL and Community languages to adults. We represent the views and interests of ESOL professionals and ESOL learners in the UK. We would like to make the following points regarding the revised language requirements due to come into effect in October 2013 which will require all applicants for settlement to pass the Life in the UK test as well as a Speaking and Listening qualification at intermediate level (B1 or ESOL Entry 3). This is in contrast to the current situation where applicants can either take the Life in the UK test or follow an ‘ESOL with Citizenship materials’ course at Entry level and pass an ESOL Speaking and Listening qualification at Entry 1, 2 or 3.

1. Many people with English language skills below B1 (Entry 3) are already successfully living in the UK, working and contributing to the economy and society. By raising the level to B1 (Entry 3), barriers to integration will be created. Therefore, NATECLA does not support this new rule. The current requirement of an ESOL course with Citizenship materials, plus progression from one level to another and a valid ESOL Skills for Life qualification is well established and sufficiently rigorous. Its strength lies in the focus on Speaking and Listening and the opportunity to contextualise citizenship in the essential development of general English skills. Feedback from learners on these courses is very positive as it provides them with the opportunity to develop confidence in living in a new country as well as improving their language skills.

2. NATECLA does not believe that it is necessary to test all skills as this could present barriers to integration. Requiring all applicants to take the ‘Life in the UK Test’ (which requires above Entry 3 reading skills) has implications for those who have no literacy on arrival and who may therefore experience difficulty in acquiring a sufficiently high level of literacy to pass the test. Speaking and Listening should remain the priority.
3. The proposed 5 year probationary period is unrealistic without an entitlement to learning/free ESOL provision (with childcare) from the time of arrival in the UK. Spouses in their first year of marriage are not eligible for funded provision which hinders those who wish to improve their English and integrate more quickly. They also run the risk of ‘forgetting’ what they have learned. Evidence shows that learning English is most effective in the early months/years of living in the UK when motivation is high and need is evident.

4. There is a clear message for policy that it makes sense to enable and encourage all new spouses/partners to begin funded ESOL classes within their first year in the country, the time when it is most likely to be effective, rather than imposing time delays which militate against effective practice. Testimony from the EIF projects clearly supports this argument: more effective learning and greater cost effectiveness, benefits for the individual and the wider community in terms of employment, reduced reliance on translation and interpreters, and reduced likelihood of being on benefit.

5. The current uncertainties regarding funding policy cause huge difficulties, even with the recent relaxation in eligibility for fee remission: difficulties for colleges and providers in planning and resourcing courses and difficulties for spouses/partners trying to find and pay for ESOL classes, especially for those on low incomes.

6. NATECLA believes that while language supports integration and that ESOL classes should be accessible and affordable, it is not the only factor and speaking the language does not necessarily lead to integration.

7. NATECLA would like to reiterate that ESOL provision should be an entitlement for all those who need it – a key to unlocking potential - rather than part of immigration policy. Investment in ESOL provision is vital to enabling migrants to realise their potential and make their contribution to the economy, society and our culture.

In addition, NATECLA believes that the introduction of a new income threshold (a minimum income requirement of £18,600 for people wishing to sponsor a partner to come to the UK, and higher if there are children) will have significant impacts on those wishing to bring their partners into the UK. It will disadvantage women (who earn less than men, on average) and some ethnic minority communities who earn less than the average wage.

The extended period before partners can apply for settlement (from 2 to 5 years) will lead to increased insecurity and worry for families seeking to settle in the UK.

NATECLA is concerned that the introduction of these regulations contravenes Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

NATECLA Management Council
26th June 2012

'Skills for a Sustainable Growth Strategy'

The National Association for Teaching English and Community Languages To Adults (NATECLA) would like to endorse the concerns raised in the TES about the cuts in ESOL (FE Focus 26 November). The cuts in FE funding, plus the loss of the 1.4 weighting for Skills for Life and the government’s approach to ESOL outlined in its strategy ‘Investing in Skills for Sustainable Growth’ document (16 November) are creating the most serious crisis for the future of ESOL that has ever been seen. The impact of these combined decisions is to jeopardise all the work that has been built up over the years in producing good quality and well-resourced provision and a trained workforce. There are already waiting lists for provision and if the government really believes that the English language is the key to integration - which it purports to support in its statements about citizenship - then the current decisions will even further deny people the right to learn it.

The current situation where ESOL has been co-funded has already seen some learners not able to access provision, but the loss of the 1.4 weighting will further raise fees, taking classes out of the reach of many learners. In addition to this, there will no longer be the opportunity for those on low wages to access free provision and the safety net of the learner support fund is apparently going to be removed as well. This will decimate provision and adults in priority groups such as beginner reader writers, new arrivals, spouses not in receipt of benefit and those with partners on low incomes, will become further marginalised as essential opportunities to develop language and literacy skills become even less accessible.

As well as the cuts in ESOL classes, those in the workplace will also suffer. Whilst NATECLA agrees that employers should pay for migrant workers to learn English, many of those ESOL learners in work are not migrant workers - they are from settled communities and often in low paid jobs. Many employers in the past have not been prepared to release, let alone pay for their employees to access provision and the current statement, unless it looks again at the definition of ‘settled’ communities and penalties for employers, will further exacerbate the situation. NATECLA is pleased to see that those who are on job seekers or ESA allowances will still be able to access provision but we are concerned that the programmes they will be referred to will have been transformed into a shadow of their former selves.

If the government truly wants people to integrate and be part of the ‘big society’ then language is the key. ESOL learners are keen to learn the language and integrate into society but in order to do this they need programmes that enable them to do so.

NATECLA urges the government to reconsider their decision and recognise and prioritise students of ESOL

Government Spending Review  October 2010

 NATECLA would like to affirm that all second language learners coming to live in this country should have access to publicly funded ESOL classes in order to enable them to play a full part in British society.  We are extremely concerned about the statement regarding proposed cuts to English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in the Comprehensive Spending Review announced on 20th October. It was stated that there would be a reduction in BIS activities, including ESOL funding for people not in 'settled communities' from 2012 although no clarification on 'settled communities' was provided. We have received many expressions of concern from members across the UK as well as requests for urgent clarification of the position.

NATECLA strongly opposes all reductions to ESOL provision.  We have always stressed the importance of an entitlement to funded English classes for all adults who need these. There are many types of immigrant communities in the United Kingdom and it would be an almost impossible task to differentiate amongst them. The danger is that starting to define which nationalities or ethnic groups constitute  'settled communities' could result in many learners and groups, all with a very clear need to learn English and develop their literacy skills in English, being excluded from access to ESOL programmes.

We are pressing for an urgent meeting with the Department where we can present our members views and concerns in more detail.


29 July 2010  Compulsory English language tests

In June 2010 the government announced that  Compulsory English language tests will be introduced for non-European migrants applying to come to the UK to join or marry their settled partner.

It was announced on 26th July 2010 that the date of introduction will be 29 November 2010 then, any migrant who wants to enter or remain in the UK as the partner of a British citizen or a person settled here will need to show that they can speak and understand English.  Anyone wishing to come to the UK as a partner will need to demonstrate basic English at A1 level, the same level required for skilled workers admitted under Tier 2 of the points-based system.



NATECLA opposes this new requirement for spouses and other dependants from non-European countries wishing to settle in the United Kingdom. We feel strongly that the UK is the best place for people settling here to learn English. It will discriminate particularly against women and dependants who may have had little or no educational opportunities and moreover would find it almost impossible to travel from their villages to centres where they can learn English.

 In order to deal more fairly with spouses and other relatives it would be more appropriate to require them to pass an examination within a specified time period after arriving in the United Kingdom. This would allow immigrants to start classes within weeks of arrival instead of waiting for the present one or three year waiting period.

There is also Clause 8 of the Human Rights Act (1998) which emphasises the right to respect a person's private and family life. This new requirement will have a devastating effect on families, some of whom are already settled in the United Kingdom.

Home Office regulation changes 21 April 2010

On 7 April, the Home Office made important changes to the regulations for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) learners who are applying for UK citizenship or Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) through the ESOL Entry level qualifications. All ESOL providers now have to be publicly funded colleges or private colleges accredited through one of four agencies - they are Accreditation UK, the British Accreditation Council, the Accreditation Body for Language Services, and the Accreditation Service for International Colleges. The four agencies currently accredit language providers who recruit students from overseas.

A stated aim of the changes is to close down unscrupulous businesses which have exploited the high demand for settlement and citizenship by deceiving applicants about the requirements and providing certification without assessment. There is a clear need to remove these fraudulent businesses and NATECLA strongly agrees that all centres providing Citizenship courses should be monitored to ensure the quality and probity of their provision.

However, the introduction of the changes without notice on the Tuesday after Easter, has taken everyone by surprise. Good centres have been forced to close courses overnight. There may be very serious consequences for Citizenship or ILR applicants who are now being rejected, having done all the law required up to the 7th April. In view of the difficulties that learners will have in finding alternative courses in time for visa deadlines, NATECLA would like a six-month interim period introduced to allow centres to apply for accreditation and allowing students already on courses to complete them and have the validity of their certificates recognised.

NATECLA supports the NIACE proposal that the ESOL Awarding Bodies are allowed to perform the function of the accrediting bodies so that learners are not left in limbo. It is concerned that thousands of learners could be in the position where they have demonstrated their willingness to learn English and have achieved an ESOL Entry level qualification only to be rejected at the last stage.   

Cuts in 'adult learner responsive' rate 24/03/2010

NATECLA is concerned that the announced cuts in the Adult Education Budget will result in a grave situation where some adult learners will not be able to access English courses. The cuts will have an impact both on the students and the communities that the colleges serve.

Whilst on the one hand the Government is saying that it is essential that everybody should learn English they are cutting the finance necessary to run classes for these learners. NATECLA feels it is a basic right of everyone to access English language learning.

We are concerned that this is a retrograde step. If the government is serious about its ‘New Approach to ESOL’, then they should be alleviating the impact of the cuts in relation to ESOL provision

There have been a number of changes over the years impacting on ESOL provision, such as the introduction of fees. NATECLA feel that this added burden of cuts in the budget can only add to the difficulties that providers already face and threatens to undermine the ‘New Approach’.

Patricia Sullivan and Balvinder Bassra


See Association of Colleges press release

ESOL New Approach - May 2009

From NATECLA we welcome any move to tackle barriers to provision, particularly for women at E1 and E2 with childcare needs and for those who are not able to either pay fees or evidence hardship. We know that in many cases outreach and community based provision at E1 and E2 has been reduced because of the local LSC focus on PSA / Leitch targets.

We hope that local authorities will be persuaded to draw on the extensive knowledge and expertise held by many large colleges and other providers, as well as voluntary and community groups.

We question the impact of this shift in policy when there is no additional funding to support outreach activity and providers’ performance is still measured in terms of success rates. As an example, are those E1 learners, who have not developed reading and writing in their first language, to be allowed the time and support they need to achieve a qualification? The document mentions roll-on roll-off provision and short intensive packages – which may be of benefit for some people but for many the need is for accessible, quality ESOL which allows them to progress according to their individual needs.

Focusing English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) on Community Cohesion. Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills Consultation.

The National Association for Teaching English and Community Languages to Adults (NATECLA) is pleased to see that the government recognises the importance of English language skills in achieving social cohesion and integration and is conducting this consultation.   As always our main concern is that vulnerable learners have access to provision that is free and easily accessible and we welcome the opportunity to respond to this consultation. 

4 January 2008

Press release 19/09/07 ESOL funding

NATECLA voices its concerns on the impact of the funding changes which end the free entitlement to ESOL Classes. We have been conducting a survey amongst our members to monitor the impact of these changes and initial responses paint a gloomy picture in some areas. Provision has been cut, particularly entry-level programmes, partly due to the focus on Level 2 programmes.  This is exactly the area where provision needs to grow if learners are to stand any chance of ever achieving a Level 2 qualification. We accept that enrolment is still continuing and there will always be problems during ant transition stage but the general picture is that numbers are down. Potential learners are not completing their enrolment when they discover how much they have to pay and others are put off by the amount of additional paperwork they need to provide.

There also seems to be a lack of clarity and interpretation in the Learner Support fund, which has resulted in delays in enrolment and uncertainty.  Learners are having to return two or three to provide all the documentation and in some cases are simply not returning. Others are reporting that the Learner Support fund is woefully inadequate. This is surely not what the government intended when they assured the sector that they would find accessible ways of learners proving that they were on low incomes and that the learner support funds would protect vulnerable adults such as spouses who might not be able to produce the documentation.

We warned the government about the additional time and resources that would be needed to check documentation, this was ignored and is now resulting in stressful situations for both learners and teachers.  Some providers have also questioned whether the increased time and cost spent in collecting fees and chasing documentation particularly in community based ESOL actaully justifies the fees raised. A quote from one teacher sums up the situation 'This is the most stressful start to term I have ever known'. Although it is early days we are already seeing the negative impact of the changes which contradict the government's policy of cohesion and integration and unfortunately, we feel there is worse to come. As part of the ESOL Alliance we are supporting the Save ESOL campaign and the day of action and urge the government to take heed of what is happening and reinstate free provision, particularly at the lower levels.

Irene Austin and Anne McKeown  - NATECLA Co-Chairs

We need data about applicants who are unable to take up places because of costs and case study evidence. Please continue to survey your students.


Link is to the UCU Save ESOL campaign and July bulletin


Write to your MP. http://www.writetothem.com/


NATECLA Press Release 4 October 2006

 What speakers of English as a second language in the UK most need is high quality opportunities to learn English on courses which are local, flexible, easy to access and tailored to their needs. NATECLA warmly welcomes the findings of the NIACE Committee of Enquiry Report "More than a Language". For the very first time a national report has looked in detail at how English language teaching in the UK can be delivered and administered

NATECLA’s Co- Chairs Irene Austin and Anne McKeown said the Association was looking forward to working closely with NIACE and the Government on implementing the Report’s recommendations particularly those on the future long term funding of ESOL. "We are pleased that the Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education Bill Rammell said there were no proposals to cut the overall ESOL budget."

At the same time the Association is concerned that changes to funding if not very carefully planned and administered, could unintentionally restrict the availability of ESOL. "We fear that some vulnerable groups could be unable to access learning, with dangerous consequences for social inclusion and community cohesion. Would-be citizens may find it hard to achieve the level of English language skills required for citizenship if provision is restricted."

NIACE (National Institute of Adult and Continuing Education) launched the final report of its year long Committee of Enquiry into English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) called ‘More than just a Language’ on Tuesday 3/10/06 at Abbey Community Centre London