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ESOL on the agenda before the general election

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18 December 2014
ESOL on the agenda before the general election

>> Use our ready made template letter to tell your MP how important ESOL provision is in the UK

>> Read our letter to the Major of London, Boris Johnson in response to the Evening Standard article entitled; 'Boris Johnson: Everybody in London Should Speak English'

Here at NATECLA we believe that every migrant adult should have access to affordable, accessible and high quality ESOL provision. Sadly, the reality paints a different picture. 

The 2011 Census revealed that over 850,000 migrants cannot speak English well or at all.

Over the last 10 years, there has been a significant drop in the number of migrants who are able to access ESOL provision due to a huge shortfall in funding. The numbers have fallen dramatically - from 500,000 ESOL students in 2006/7 to 139,000 in 2014/14  A survey conducted by NATECLA of 212 colleges and adult education centres in May revealed that over 80% of ESOL providers have significant waiting lists of up to 1,000 students ESOL courses. As a result, migrants who want to learn English are regularly being turned away. 

You can help

With the general election only a few months away, NATECLA is urging all its members and the wider community to participate in our campaign to get ESOL included on the manifestos of the main political parties.

We have composed a template letter for you to personalise and send to your MP. It could not be easier. Simply:

1. Download the letter in Microsoft Word
2. Personalise it - particularly focusing on the highlighted sections of text
3. Send it to your MP - you can find your local MP by using the Write to Them website
4. Go one step further and arrange to meet with your MP to discuss the importance of ESOL provision in your area with them.

Why is ESOL so important?

Access to ESOL provision for migrants is critical. It ensures migrants can participate fully in UK life and, as a result, contribute significantly to the economic success of the UK. Benefits of ESOL include:

  • ESOL helps to eradicate poverty. If migrants cannot learn English, their ability to gain vocational qualifications or find employment is limited and this restricts economic productivity. Studies have shown that the lowest levels of participation in education are amongst the Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Somali communities – Britain’s poorest migrant communities.
  • Our workplaces are missing out. Many of our migrants are highly qualified and experienced individuals in their occupational fields. However, without the opportunity to learn English, they are unable to contribute to our economy. Let us not forget that the success of the NHS is highly dependent on migrant health workers. 
  • ESOL creates community cohesion. The Commission on Integration and Cohesion (2007) and the Cantle Report (2001) highlighted that tensions between communities increase when people lead separate lives and do not integrate via a common language. For example, a lack of English could severely hinder a migrant’s ability to access healthcare or education for their children, greet their neighbours and chat to other parents on the school run. 

What NATECLA would like to see

NATECLA broadly supports the Demos’ On Speaking Terms report, published in August 2014. This put forward a strong case for a joined-up ESOL strategy for the UK to recognise the positive impact of language skills on the UK economy. A strategy could help to:

  • Secure an increase in funded ESOL provision and ensure all migrants can progress to Level 1 
  • Safeguard the quality of ESOL by recruiting more fully qualified ESOL teachers
  • Set up a national centre of expertise for ESOL 
  • Provide cultural orientation programmes for newly arrived migrants (this is done with great success in Germany and Sweden)
  • Match employer investment in ESOL training
NATECLA was also heavily involved in putting together the ESOL Manifesto. This is a statement of values and beliefs compiled by Action for ESOL in 2012 – a large group of ESOL practitioners, national bodies, trade unions, student bodies, community representatives and other organisations and individuals who believe that the opportunity to learn the common language of the community you live in is a basic human right.

>> Download the letter now and send it to your MP to help put ESOL on the agenda before the General Election

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