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Citizenship and English Language Courses

Volume 478: debated on Thursday 26 June 2008

4. How his Department monitors the quality of teaching and qualifications provided by colleges offering courses in citizenship and in English for speakers of other languages. (213864)

The quality of ESOL teaching for Learning and Skills Council-funded courses is monitored through regular inspection by Ofsted. Inspectorate reviews have reported steady improvement since 2001, and Ofsted will publish a thematic review this summer. Citizenship materials are developed to meet Home Office criteria for naturalisation. They are not a separate curriculum and are not formally assessed, but are often used within ESOL courses. Successful learners receive a qualification from awarding bodies who are assessed and accredited by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

I thank the Secretary of State for that response. There are some excellent organisations in Bristol offering ESOL and citizenship courses funded through, and supported by, the City of Bristol college, but given the plethora of organisations that are springing up across the country, particularly in areas of high ethnic diversity such as mine, how can we be sure that people wanting to take those courses are directed towards reputable organisations and do not waste their money on organisations that do not offer a proper standard of teaching and might not even be properly accredited to offer the qualifications?

My hon. Friend raises an important issue. While any college providing a course needs to register, that does not of itself provide an assurance of the quality of the education on offer. I strongly advise her constituents to look for those providers who offer properly accredited awards from the recognised awarding bodies regulated by the QCA, and to look for qualifications that are LSC-funded. There are people who are willing to exploit those who want to learn English, perhaps for citizenship and naturalisation purposes. It should not be difficult to find a properly accredited provider offering the right qualifications. However, if this is an issue of widespread concern, we should discuss how we might make the choices more easily explainable to people.