New ESOL funding for Muslim women: NATECLA's response
NATECLA's response to David Cameron’s announcement of a £20 million English language teaching fund for Muslim women – 18th January 2016.
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NATECLA (the membership body for English language teachers of adults in the UK) warmly welcomes any additional funding to provide English language (ESOL) training to migrants but we are concerned about some of the announcements made by David Cameron today.
Government funding for ESOL classes across the UK has been significantly cut over the last four years. The most recent cut took place only four months ago (September 2015) and saw the withdrawal of £45 million worth of funding for Job Centre claimants who were identified as having a language level that prevents them from getting employment. This cut in funding, and those that came before, have had a profound effect on the ability of further and adult education centres to offer ESOL classes in general. Many organisations have stopped running these courses altogether, a number of qualified and experienced teachers have lost their jobs and, where ESOL classes do still exist, huge waiting lists are commonplace. This means migrants often have to wait over a year to start learning English and the number of free places available for the most vulnerable learners have been slashed.
In the wake of these cuts, NATECLA would question the timing of this new funding announcement. We would also question the prioritisation of Muslim women alone in benefiting from this funding. To ensure all migrants integrate successfully into British life, surely more funding needs to be made available to support both men and women from all religious backgrounds so that they can learn English.
On Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, David Cameron claimed there is a lack of will in Muslim women wishing to learn English. Perhaps the drop in take up he refers to should rather be attributed to the significant loss of funding for ESOL courses provided by the government and the subsequent closure of many classes.
NATECLA would like to see that this £20 million fund is spent in the most effective way possible. We see it as imperative that experts in the ESOL field are consulted with before the money is allocated and that all provision is delivered by qualified and experienced teachers . In order to do this, we suggest that funding should be allocated to recognised high-quality providers of accredited ESOL programmes, such as FE colleges, adult learning providers and charity community organisations, to meet needs that should be prioritised carefully.
As the experts in delivering ESOL provision to adult learners, NATECLA would welcome involvement in the planning of this new government initiative before the programme is rolled out in October 2016.
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