Skip to main content

Immigration: English Language Courses

Volume 689: debated on Thursday 22 February 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many refugees and asylum seekers have benefited from English for speakers of other languages courses. [HL1922]

Since 2001, 1.9 million people have taken up the opportunity to improve their English language skills.

Using analysis of the Learning and Skills Council's (LSC's) individualised learner record (ILR) data, there were 42,353 enrolments by asylum seekers on English for speakers of other languages courses in 2004-05, the latest year for which figures are available. This figure includes 4,378 enrolments by learners aged 16 to 18 and 37,975 by learners aged 19 plus. LSC ILR data do not record refugee learners separately from mainstream FE learners.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What consideration they gave to the effect on community cohesion and integration of the decision to cut the provision of English for speakers of other languages courses; and whether they will review this decision in due course. [HL1923]

The changes announced to arrangements for supporting English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) are not intended to reduce provision. Changes were announced as a result of growing demand for ESOL to ensure that public funding is targeted at those learners most in need of public support.

Under current arrangements, some learners who most need ESOL for employability and social cohesion are unable to access courses due to excessive demand. Changes will help to refocus funding and provision towards this group.

Learners in receipt of income-related benefits—for example jobseeker’s allowance—or the higher rates of working tax credit will continue to automatically receive full fee remission. That means that prospective ESOL learners who are unemployed, unwaged or in very low paid jobs, all those who are least able to contribute to the cost of their learning, will continue to receive full fee remission. The Government will continue to support the cost of learning for those asked for a contribution and will fund around 62.5 per cent of the course fee.

The changes to funding arrangements are part of a package of measures designed to increase the choice available. New ESOL for work qualifications being developed will enable those who do not need the full package of support available through ESOL to access shorter, more work-focused courses.

Proposals for changes to ESOL were cleared through the Ministerial Committee on Asylum and Migration and received the support of both the Home Office and the Department for Communities and Local Government. Clearance for the changes was received in September 2006.

The Department for Education and Skills has also carried out a consultation as part of the race equality impact assessment on the changes. Consideration has been given to the impact on community cohesion through this process, and further refinement of the proposals will be included when the report is published later in February.