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Funding for English for Speakers of other Languages Courses

Volume 528: debated on Tuesday 24 May 2011

The Petition of tutors and students of English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) in Liverpool,

Declares that the Petitioners oppose the proposed changes to the funding for English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) courses in the Government’s “Investing in Skills for Sustainable Growth” document; notes that the Petitioners believe that the proposed changes will have a devastating effect on ESOL provision, ESOL teachers’ jobs and ESOL students, particularly those on low wages; and further notes that the Petitioners believe that in Liverpool many students will be left with little hope of improving their language skills and job prospects as a result of the changes.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government not to cut funding for ESOL courses.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Luciana Berger, Official Report, 17 February 2011; Vol. 523, c. 1214.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills:

Thank you for your petition asking the Government to reconsider their English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) policy.

The Government fully appreciate the importance of English language skills in integrating into society and in finding and holding onto employment, and will continue to support ESOL through the skills system.

However, in order to address the financial crisis some very difficult decisions have had to be taken across Government. With only limited public funds we have had to prioritise further education funding on those seeking work, to help gain the skills that will improve their prospects of getting a job, and help grow the economy. Full Government funding will therefore be provided for ESOL to unemployed people in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance or in the Employment and Support Allowance (Work-Related Activity) Group, where English language skills have been identified as a barrier to entering employment. We will no longer fund ESOL courses delivered in the work place as public funding should not be used to substitute employer investment in training. We will continue to pay 50% of ESOL course fees for people who are settled here, and we are giving FE colleges more flexibility and freedom to prioritise funding. As part of this they will be tasked to identify particularly vulnerable learners in their communities as part of their business planning and local engagement

The Equality impact assessment published alongside “Skills for Sustainable Growth” (November 2010) found that, at the aggregate level, there are unlikely to be disproportionate impacts on protected groups. A separate assessment of how the changes to skills funding may affect ESOL learners is currently being carried out by my Department, and we expect to be able to publish the assessment before the summer recess.