'Biggest obstacle to English language skills is waiting lists' say language teachers

21 February 2007

UCU today responded to the provisional report of the Commission on Integration and Cohesion by calling for the government to listen to language tutors who are fearful of restrictions on access to English language courses.

A report from the commission identified the inability to speak English as the single biggest barrier preventing migrants from integrating successfully in Britain. The commission's chairperson suggested that translation services could be scaled back and some new entrants to the UK could be required to have English skills as a prerequisite for entry, but he also urged employers to offer language tuition to workers. UCU challenged elements of the commission's statement.

Roger Kline, head of equality and employment rights at the University and College Union (UCU) said: 'The biggest obstacle to improving the English language skills of new UK citizens and migrant workers is not an unwillingness by them to learn the language but the vast waiting lists for classes. The government's plan to restrict access to free ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) courses will make the problem worse.

'Charging unaffordable fees to workers on the minimum wage or less is not the way to increase take up. Exhorting employers to provide language training is not the same as requiring them to do so. The government must listen to tutors and others who understand what is needed.'
Last updated: 14 December 2015