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English for Speakers of Other Languages

Volume 531: debated on Monday 18 July 2011

I am today publishing the equality impact assessment of provision of English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) training, which I ordered earlier this year. I did so because of my determination that necessary additional cost-effectiveness should not unduly disadvantage vulnerable individuals in vulnerable communities.

Furthermore, I have asked the Association of Colleges to advise on developing with key providers an effective methodology for targeting funds at settled communities in which language barriers inhibit individual opportunity and community cohesion. Given the respective work that Lord Boswell and Baroness Sharp are doing on adult literacy and colleges in communities I have asked that they are involved in this work.

Simultaneously, we will devise means by which the quality of ESOL can be measured more effectively with a new emphasis on familiar benefits, progression to further learning and employment. I will discuss measurements of quality with Ofsted.

By targeting public funding on those in greatest need, and setting higher standards for providers, our reforms will make ESOL provision work better for learners, employers, and taxpayers.

Between 2001 and 2005 ESOL enrolments tripled, and Government spending peaked at £271 million. Despite policy introduced in 2006-7 to limit automatic fee remission to those on income-related benefits, by 2008-9 spending had only fallen to £250 million. We are, therefore, determined to continue to regain control of spending by introducing the further measures.

From August this year, full Government funding for ESOL courses will be available only for people on jobseeker’s allowance and employment support allowance (work related activity group) to help them find work. As part of a broader move towards rebalancing the investment in skills between Government, the employer and the learner, other eligible learners will be expected to make a contribution towards their course fees.

It is unacceptable that the public purse pays for free English language training for people who have come here to take up work—companies that recruit abroad must take full responsibility for that decision.

But I know that, in particular, there are women and families who rely on community-based English language to help them communicate with their children’s schools, as well as opening the door to other public services.

I am, therefore, pleased to announce that we will work in partnership with the Department for Communities and Local Government on developing new forms of support for those who need informal, community-based learning of English.

I am placing a copy of the impact assessment in the Libraries of both Houses.