Esol funding should be a priority for ministers, says UCU

30 July 2015 | last updated: 10 December 2015

UCU has warned that better funding for English classes for migrants is needed to help people contribute more to society and the economy.

The union said plans to cut the adult skills budget by a further 3.9%, announced last week by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA), on top of plans announced earlier this year to slash funding by 24% would devastate the further education sector.

The SFA has said it will attempt to save money by withdrawing funding of English classes for migrants, known as Esol (English for speakers of other languages). UCU said there was a desperate need for Esol yet this latest cut will put teachers on the dole and leave communities in the lurch.

The Prime Minister has spoken about the importance of migrants learning English and has even threatened to remove benefits from those who cannot. In a speech last week he announced plans for a review looking at issues like learning English and improving employment opportunities.

UCU said those plans were at odds with his government's plans to axe funding for English lessons, which the union said made little economic sense. According to statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), people in England and Wales who do not speak English well are less likely to have qualifications or be in work.

People aged 16-64 who spoke English 'not well' or 'not at all' had an employment rate of just 48.3%, compared to a rate of 65.4% for people who spoke English 'well' or 'very well'. People with English as their main language had an employment rate 71.9%.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Official figures make the economic case for more people learning English hard to ignore. The Prime Minister has announced a review looking at ways to ensure more people learn English and yet the government is slashing funding in this vital area.

'Access to English classes for migrants should be a top priority for ministers. People need to develop their language skills so they can contribute more to our society and economy. There is a desperate need for Esol, yet this latest cut will put teachers on the dole and leave communities in the lurch.'

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