Institute for Learning
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IfL reiterates concerns about new Esol funding system and hopes for some change
Following the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ publication of its English for speakers of other languages (Esol) equality impact assessment, in which it accepts that its intended policies would disadvantage particular groups in society, the Institute for Learning (IfL) has reiterated concerns that the extent of the proposed reductions in funding for Esol provision could have harmful consequences for local communities.
IfL is pleased that Lord Tim Boswell and Baroness Margaret Sharp have been asked by the further education and skills minister, John Hayes MP, to continue working with the Association of Colleges (AoC) to advise the government about targeting public funding for Esol courses in future.
Under the new rules at the moment, only individuals who receive ‘active’ benefits – jobseeker’s allowance or employment support allowance – will be entitled to free Esol training. Others will be required to contribute towards the cost of their course, perhaps with the help of their employer. Apart from a provision allowing small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with fewer than 250 employees access to a government subsidy for Esol training up to level 2, work-based Esol training will no longer receive any public subsidy.
Baroness Sharp and Lord Boswell, who are leading inquiries on colleges in communities and on adult literacy, will help AoC explore more effective methods for targeting funds where they are most needed in settled communities. AoC and others had led calls for the impact assessment, after AoC estimated that at least 90,000 Esol learners, two-thirds of them women, would no longer receive free training when significant changes to the rules about entitlement to public funding come into effect on 1 August 2011.
IfL’s chief executive, Toni Fazaeli, said, “IfL is concerned about the potential drop in Esol student numbers and that such a dramatic reduction could mean talented Esol teachers losing teaching time and having to turn away learners with great need. Esol teachers are passionate specialists whose highly valued skills help speakers of other languages integrate better, become more self-sufficient, participate fully in their children’s lives and in many cases equip themselves for employment. It would be wrong for our communities to have reduced access to their talent and to the high-quality English language provision that can transform the lives of many, including some of the most vulnerable in our society.
“We are pleased that two of IfL’s patrons, Lord Boswell and Baroness Sharp, will continue to play an active role in advising on future priorities for Esol. We have produced a briefing for IfL members on Esol and are encouraging them to engage in the debate and exchange good practice in teaching Esol through IfL’s Online Communities. IfL will work in partnership with others, including Natecla and Niace, to take forward improvements.”