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NATECLA launches Towards an ESOL Strategy

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22 May 2017
NATECLA launches Towards an ESOL Strategy

>> Download the document 'Towards an ESOL Strategy for England'


A national strategy is needed for migrants in England to learn English to improve integration and reduce public spending, national charity says.

The National Association for Teaching English and other Community Languages to Adults (NATECLA) has today called for the  government to adopt a strategy which will support English language (ESOL) courses to allow more migrants to contribute to the English economy and society as a whole and reduce costs to public services.

At a time when immigration is perceived to be a major public issue, the government is mounting increasing pressure on migrants to learn English and integrate, but waiting lists for English language (ESOL) courses are at an all-time high and unaffordable or inaccessible to many who need them. 

Jenny Roden launch ESOL strategyNATECLA has evidence that Wales and Scotland have benefited from having strategies for ESOL and has published a document outlining why government investment in this area is crucial. Entitled ‘Towards an ESOL Strategy for England’, it is based on a consultation carried out amongst ESOL teachers, managers, students and other key stakeholders in the field and puts forward a range of proposals for government.

According to the last Census Survey in 2011, since 2001, the number of migrants in England and Wales has increased significantly from 3.7 million to 7.5 million. In addition, 726,000 (1.3% of the population) people reported that they could not speak English well and 138,000 (0.3%) said they had no English at all. At the same time, the Skills Budget for ESOL has been halved from £203 million in 2009/10 to £104 million in 2014/15. The number of adults who are therefore able to enrol on a course has fallen from 207,400 to 131,000 between 2008/9 and 2014/15 and significant waiting lists have been reported in 80% of centres offering ESOL courses for adults - mainly adult education services and further education colleges. 

Ian Wybron from Demos and Heidi Alexander MPOnly those in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance or Employment Support Allowance are able to access free ESOL classes. Those who fall outside these categories have to pay at least 50% towards course costs, regardless of income. Asylum seekers are unable to access a course until they have lived in the UK for six months and are only eligible for basic funding (50% co-funded provision) after this time. Others, for example those who come on spouse visas, are treated as international students for at least a year. In all these cases, the cost of learning English is often prohibitive. Research (Baynham M, Roberts C et al, 2007) has shown that those who have lived in the UK for five years or less make more rapid progress in English classes than more settled residents and motivation to learn is much higher at the point of arrival. However, many are denied this opportunity.

Jenny Roden, Co-Chair of NATECLA and co-author of the document, said:

Jenny Roden NATECLAA lack of government investment in ESOL over the years has had a negative effect on this country and has led to thousands of migrants unable to get help to develop their language skills   making integration and their ability to contribute positively to our society extremely difficult.

By enrolling on an ESOL course, migrants are able to develop the language skills they need to gain employment, interact with others and manage everyday tasks with ease, without relying on costly state-funded interpreters or family and friends. From an economic perspective, migrants unable to learn English are often in low paid jobs or unemployed and many rely on the state for housing and benefits. It is common sense that a much higher percentage of second language speakers could become net tax contributors and play a more positive role in our society with the right language skills.

To tackle this growing problem, NATECLA has put forward a range of proposals for the government in their document, ‘Towards an ESOL Strategy’. These include: 

  • providing free ESOL courses for those who are in receipt of other benefits not related to employment, beginners, those with low literacy skills in their first language and newly arrived asylum seekers and people arriving for family reunion, where cost proves a barrier to attending class.
  • updating the ESOL curriculum and materials for learners
  • maintaining and improving professional development routes for ESOL teachers 
  • introducing local hubs so ESOL learners are able to find a course in their local area – these are currently only available in certain parts of the country meaning courses are often difficult to find
  • ensuring ESOL course providers collaborate better with important stakeholders such as employers, employment and health services and local authorities as well as the migrants themselves to deliver courses which fulfil the needs of the local community.
The ESOL strategy launchIt is hoped that the NATECLA document ‘Towards an ESOL Strategy for England’ will lead to the government production of a national ESOL strategy – something already in existence in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland - and will allow the proposals set out to be reviewed and implemented. 

Find out more

>> View the document 'Towards an ESOL Strategy for England' online

>> View more information about the background to the ESOL Strategy, the consultation process and source material

>> Find out more about NATECLA

Notes to editors

  • For more information contact Laura Plotnek-Jones, NATECLA National Centre on 07443 601298 or 07875 683254 or email laura@natecla.org.uk or Jane Arstall on 07875 683254 or email info@natecla.org.uk
  • The strategy will be launched nationally at an event on Wednesday 12th October from 12.30 to 2.00pm in the Palace of Westminster, London. Attendance for members of the press is by invitation only. Please contact Jane Arstall on info@natecla.org.uk or 07875 683 254 if you wish to attend. 
  • NATECLA (National Association for Teaching English and other Community Languages to Adults) is an independent charity, funded by membership and sponsorship. It is the only national forum and professional organisation for ESOL professionals in the UK. NATECLA offers high quality, relevant training opportunities, both local and national, to ESOL professionals. It provides expert advice to government bodies and other agencies and it lobbies on issues that affect teachers and learners.

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