Prime minister's call for people to learn English exposes cuts to language classes

18 January 2016 | last updated: 4 February 2016

UCU today said the prime minister's call for Muslim women to learn English exposed funding problems for speakers of foreign languages and how the government's cuts have hit the very classes designed to help people improve their English.

Funding for a £45m programme of Esol courses (English classes for foreign language speakers), run with Jobcentre Plus, was cut in July. This followed a drop of almost 40% for non-apprenticeship learning, including Esol, since 2009. The union said learning English should be a vital step available to all so that people improve their chances of securing work and fully participating in society.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'The prime minister's strong words on the importance of learning English simply do not fit with his actions. His government has repeatedly cut funding to help foreign language speakers learn English and this money, although welcome, does not go far enough.

'It is incredibly important that people are given the opportunity to learn English. Politicians can talk about the importance of speaking English, but they need to back that rhetoric up with proper funding. People want to improve their English to give themselves a better chance of getting work and fully participating in British society, and we should be helping them do that.'