It was encouraging to see funding for ESOL being debated in Parliament yesterday as part of the Westminster Hall debate on Investment in the Provision of ESOL. ESOL students and potential students across the UK have been calling for more classes for far too long. Our own students at EFA tell us it is extremely difficult to enrol on a college course for a number of reasons and that voluntary sector provision is not always consistent.
Since announcement of the devolution of the Adult Skills Budget, we have been campaigning for increased and improved ESOL provision across London. For our Love ESOL campaign (#LoveESOL), we have been visiting City Hall for the past two years calling for:
- increased funding at least restored to 2008 levels
- enhanced accessibility of classes, including widespread provision of creches and an end to exclusion of people with certain immigration statuses, for example, asylum seekers
- better teacher training, e.g. pedagogy-focussed training that keeps teachers motivated and constantly learning
- an ESOL strategy with better coordination, mapping and advice
We are happy to see MPs discussing the demand for ESOL that is not being met, and are listening to stories about the impact of ESOL on people’s lives. As one EFA student, Jenny, put it: ‘ESOL is the route to living a full dignified life here, allowing us to contribute to life in this city’. We also agree with the point made during the debate that the devolution of the Adult Skills Budget opens up opportunities to shape the future of ESOL in creative and original ways, and we believe that ESOL students and their needs should be at the heart of this.
While a large part of the debate focused on re-investment in ESOL for refugees, we invite MPs to also consider more closely ALL communities who need ESOL provision and especially those who have been excluded for a number of structural reasons including childcare commitments, low pay and work during unsociable hours. In our experience, ESOL students come from a very wide range of backgrounds; many are refugees, but there are also EU and British citizens, people who have a range of different visas including spousal ones, and asylum seekers.
We look forward to following this conversation and to working on shaping an ESOL strategy for London that puts ESOL students first.