Esol funding is in safe hands

I welcome the support from Alan Tuckett, the director of Niace, for my finding solutions to the huge rise in demand for English for speakers of other languages courses ("London nets pound;15m extra for Esol", May 11).

This government is not cutting funding for Esol. We have committed more than pound;3 billion through our adult Skills for Life Strategy since 2001 to support learners, including courses for 1.9 million Esol students. But demand for courses has tripled and continually increasing funding is unsustainable. In some parts of the country, there are waiting lists of 18 months to two years and this affects many of those in greatest need. So we have asked those who can pay to contribute, to ensure the poorest and most vulnerable do not lose out. We are also conscious of helping colleges manage this process of change. London has particular problems.

The support package agreed with the Learning and Skills Council for London colleges is worth up to pound;35 million. The LSC is working with the London Development Agency and the Mayor's office to ensure it recognises the unique needs of London and supports colleges to make the necessary changes. It includes up to pound;15m to support college-based Esol provision to achieve a phased transition where the changes would be too difficult to make in a single year. This has been supplemented by additional funding from the London Development Agency in order to provide further support.

The package could also support exceptional additional costs which colleges will incur in curriculum development and restructuring to deliver more provision in support of government targets on skills and employability.

We estimate that nine out of 10 London FE colleges will see an overall increase in funding in 2007-08, with a quarter increasing by more than 5 per cent. The record of investment in FE and Esol by this government is second to none.

Bill Rammell minister for lifelong learning, further and higher education

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