ESOL learners at risk – NIACE’s view

20 January 2011

A language in common assists social inclusion, economic development and individual achievement and for these reasons, NIACE is concerned about the proposed changes in the funding of ESOL. The prioritising of learners from ‘settled communities’, without a clear definition or an indication of government priorities in relation to ESOL, has confused ESOL providers and provoked concerns about which groups might be excluded.

Chris Taylor, a Programme Director at NIACE, said:

“In addition, we have serious concerns regarding the prioritising of learners who are on ‘active benefits’, meaning they are seeking work. Initial research amongst providers shows that the majority of vulnerable learners are in receipt of ‘inactive benefits’ like Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Pension Credit, Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit. Therefore, NIACE recommends that an Equality Impact Assessment is conducted before the proposed changes are implemented.”

Because a number of policy streams impact on ESOL provision, NIACE suggests that the highly successful National ESOL Advisory Forum be re-convened to act as a source of advice to BIS, DWP and the Home Office.

Chris Taylor added:

“The cuts in funding have made it appear like ESOL is not valued by the Government, at a time when citizenship policy gives it more value than ever. NIACE would welcome a statement that this is not the case.”

As quoted in a TES FE focus article, The ‘cruel’ cuts that could silence a generation (Friday, 21 January 2011), Chris Taylor stresses that many ESOL students are refugees:

“They are refugees because they spoke out in their home countries. So it’s not surprising if they are reluctant to speak out again.”