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NATECLA response to Demos report

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19 August 2014

Think tank, Demos, published their report ‘On Speaking Terms’ today (Tuesday 19th August). Amongst the key findings, Demos has put forward a strong case for a joined-up ESOL strategy for England. 

The Demos report has been published at a time when the ESOL sector has been faced with the following:

  • The most recent Census Survey highlighted that 850,000 migrants could not speak English well or at all
  • Only 150,000 migrants are currently registered on an ESOL programme
  • Demand for ESOL courses in the UK is outstripping supply: A survey conducted by NATECLA in May 2014 revealed that over 80% of colleges and adult education providers have significant waiting lists of up to 1000 students on their ESOL programme
  • Government funding for ESOL programmes has been reduced by 40% over the past five years
In response to the Demos report, Diana Tremayne, NATECLA Co-chair, said:

“NATECLA fully endorses the majority of recommendations put forward in the Demos ‘On Speaking Terms’ report. In particular we welcome the call for a commitment from all political parties to a national strategy for ESOL in England. 

“Although we value the contribution ESOL classes make in helping many learners access employment we wholeheartedly agree that the benefits of accessing classes stretch far more widely than the employability agenda alone. For example, improved access to healthcare and education can have an enormous impact on individuals and families and can, potentially, save money in the longer term. 

“As the organisation which represents both ESOL and community languages professionals, we are pleased to see that the Demos report highlights the positive aspects of bi- and multilingualism and the potential positive impact these skills could have on society and the economy as a whole.

“Although NATECLA does not see a particular need for ESOL qualifications to be aligned to the CEFR as they are already aligned to UK qualification levels, this is an area which could be looked at in more detail.

“We fully agree that the government should consult ESOL providers about future reforms to the sector, should support the development of an ESOL organisation to create a joined-up approach for providers and should rethink their focus on funding short-term ESOL for employment programmes to the detriment of learners in employment. In terms of the funding of ESOL we would be happy to work with other bodies to look at how suggestions such as employer co-funding of classes, personal skills accounts and the extension of FE loans to ESOL learners could work in practice. We welcome the call for local authorities to provide clearer online information for migrants wishing to access ESOL courses.  

“However, the recommendation which encourages local authorities to stop spending money on translation services to free up funds for ESOL provision does concern NATECLA. We echo Professor Mike Baynham’s view that translation services are rarely relied on by migrants who often want to learn English. Rather they provide an essential support service to people, in collaboration with access to an ESOL programme, who might otherwise feel very isolated.

“Overall, we welcome the Demos report and hope to see its core recommendations embedded within the 2015 election manifestos. “ 

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