Cuts to funding for English for speakers of other languages (Esol) have left the sector in “a dangerous state of disrepair”, according to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Speaking at the Association of Colleges (AoC) annual conference today, Mr Corbyn said in the last seven years, Esol funding has been cut by 55 per cent, despite demand an obvious rise in demand year on year.
“This has left the sector in a dangerous state of disrepair," he told delegates. "A survey by Refugee Action has found that some people are now waiting three years just to get English classes. Figures like this make it abundantly clear that we need a more proactive approach.”
'Bold but necessary'
Mr Corbyn said the National Education Service proposed by the Labour party would incorporate teaching Esol, and the proposals for the service were “bold but I believe they are necessary if we are to create a 21st century education system that caters for everybody, students and staff alike”.
Only last week, Tes highlighted the dramatic impact cuts to Esol provision have had across the sector, and highlighted the findings of the Refugee Action survey, which also found in almost half of providers, the waiting time for a place on an Esol course was six months or more.
'Wake up to the damage'
The Labour Party leader also told conference that in the first five years of the Conservative government, the adult skills budget had slashed by 40 per cent, and adult further education budgets faced real terms cuts of 14 per cent. “And even now the new adult education budget is only being held in cash terms, but obviously inflation will eat away at it.” he said.
“The government must wake up to the damage these cuts are causing to colleges and the entire educational system, the damage it is doing to students’ learning and the damage it is doing to staff morale.”
He said the government had to start listening to teachers, schools and colleges about how to best deliver education.
“A key part of our programme is giving workers more control over their working lives, ensuring people’s voices are listened to. The people who know best how to do a job are the people who do that job.”
Earlier today, skills minister Anne Milton said she wanted government to play an “active role” in the FE sector, and “by the sector, for the sector” was "not, on its own, always the best response" to driving up the sector's performance.
She later told Tes no one side had all the answers to the sector’s challenges.