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NATECLA Briefing Statement made at HOLEX 1 Mar 2021

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05 March 2021

ESOL Strategy for England – where are we at?

Thank you to Sue and Holex for inviting NATECLA to speak about an EOSL strategy at the new SfL strategy launch. Where have those 20 years gone!
We have seen repeated calls for a national ESOL strategy for England, which lags well behind Wales and Scotland, who have had theirs in place for several years now (2014 & 2015). In fact, NATECLA has been promoting a common strategy now for more than 4 decades.
What can an ESOL Strategy do? An ESOL Strategy gives purpose and direction, cultivates a structured approach to developing a curriculum that identifies appropriate regional and national needs, and identifies teaching and training needs that inform and improve a learner’s experiences. A strategy gives practitioners and learners shared values that support integration, reduces inequalities and develops skills and employment to the benefit of the economy.

• ESOL benefited tremendously from the Skill for Life strategy in 2001. (Curriculum, materials, research, professional development pathways...)
• Over the years since the SFL strategy, ESOL has seen significant changes. Unlike English & maths, free classes for all in ESOL were removed in 2007. In addition, funding for ESOL has decreased, though demand has not. Waiting lists are common.
• Funding for ESOL is often short term, making long-term planning impossible.
• Cost (and qualifications status) has resulted in ESOL learners often doing Functional Skills English quals which, despite being reformed, are still unsuitable for most ESOL learners.
• Since specialist teaching qualifications (Additional Dip in Teaching Lit and ESOL ADTLLS) were deregulated there has been a shortage of qualified ESOL teachers (DfE 2019) as there simply are not enough subject specific courses or CPD.
• Those with ESOL needs are often at a social disadvantage and after the Casey report, (2016), which demonstrated that ESOL was necessary for integration, The Government pledged to publish an ESOL strategy.
• But it hasn’t happened. And now there is a very serious threat- the DfE level 2 and below consultation which proposes merging all Entry Levels into one, scrapping the curriculum and getting rid of Levels 1 and 2.
• ESOL needs stability, so it is not subject to political decisions of successive governments. ESOL learners deserve it.

I’d like to end with a couple of reminders. First the think tank DEMOS’s comprehensive report of 2014 that stated a strategy would “help to unlock migrant capabilities, save costs to public services in the long term and promote a more integrated and socially cohesive society”. There have been so many endorsements over the last 5 years, and we were promised a strategy, but are still waiting and ultimately, only political will can take this forward. Secondly and as Alex Stevenson said at the last review of the ESOL Strategy proposal in 2017: “Don't think ‘What can the Government do for ESOL?’ but ‘What can ESOL do for the Government in terms of employment, health, integration?)”.
To read NATECLA’s document on an ESOL Strategy for England, please see here.

Rachel Öner, National Co-Chair NATECLA 1st March 2021

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