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Progress made towards national ESOL strategy but more needs to be done

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16 October 2017

Progress made towards national ESOL strategy for England but more needs to be done

English language teachers from across England renewed their plea to Whitehall today for a national strategy for ESOL (English language courses) that will ensure flexible, high quality provision for all migrants who need to learn English. Such provision will enable them to integrate more effectively into their local communities and make an active contribution to society. 

This Wednesday, one year on from last year's launch representatives from the ESOL community will gather to report on progress made. (Download the progress report; 'Towards an ESOL strategy: One year on how far have we got?'). 

The NATECLA-led document, ‘Towards an ESOL Strategy for England’ calls for monitoring and coordination at a national and local level and has had a considerable influence on policymakers since it was published in October 2016.  NATECLA’s work was acknowledged and used in the All Party Parliamentary Group’s report on Social Integration, headed up by MP Chuka Umunna, which prioritised the need for a “comprehensive strategy to promote English language learning". The secretariat to the APPG thanked NATECLA for their knowledge and contribution saying "your knowledge and, indeed, Towards an ESOL Strategy for England were invaluable in shaping our thinking on English language provision as a core component of a comprehensive National Integration Strategy.” 

Although funding for ESOL has been systematically cut year on year from £203 million in 2009-10 to £90 million in 2015-16, the government has been increasingly mounting pressure on migrants to learn English. That there is a high level of willingness to learn and improve English among migrants is clearly demonstrated by waiting lists for ESOL courses that are longer than ever before. Jenny Roden Co-chair of NATECLA said 

“We are delighted that our campaign for an ESOL strategy for England has been so influential but a lot more needs to be done. We still need much better coordination at both a local and national level, especially with the devolution of skills funding on the way. In order to ensure there is effective coordination and a good level of education for everyone, whatever their needs maybe, we need a national strategy. We are not saying ‘give us lots of money’ but funding needs to be fair and adequate.” 

“People are travelling to Westminster from as far afield as Yorkshire and Scotland this Wednesday to hear about the progress we have made since our ‘Towards an ESOL Strategy document was launched 12 months ago and we have had to turn people away. This clearly shows there is real concern within the ESOL community and beyond that policymakers are not doing more to support English language learning in this country.” 

‘Towards an ESOL Strategy for England’ based on a consultation carried out amongst ESOL teachers, managers, students and other key stakeholders in the field  proposes that government

  • provides 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.
  • updates the ESOL curriculum and learning resources for learners
  • maintains and improves professional development routes for ESOL teachers
  • introduces 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
  • ensures 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.
It is hoped that the NATECLA document ‘Towards an ESOL Strategy for England’ will lead to the government developing a national ESOL strategy, as have the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland that will allow the proposals set out to be reviewed and implemented.

To view the document, visit http://natecla.org.uk/content/631/ESOL-Strategy-for-England

To find out more about NATECLA visit www.natecla.org.uk

Notes to editors

  • For more information contact Laura Plotnek, NATECLA National Centre on 07443 601298 or 07875  683254 or email laura@natecla.org.uk
  • The strategy update will be given by Heidi Alexander MP at an event in the Palace of Westminster on Wednesday 11th October from 1-3pm.  Attendance is by invitation only.
  • 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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