The government should provide "further funding" for English for speakers of other languages (Esol) provision in disadvantaged areas, a new government review has found.
The Casey Review on social integration, published today, concludes that a shared language is “fundamental” for integration to take place within immigrant communities, and that the government should make additional funding available for community-based English classes through the adult skills budget.
Dame Louise Casey, who was brought in by former prime minister David Cameron to report on social integration amid concerns that hundreds of radicalised young Britons were joining Islamic State, said that the country was becoming more divided as it grew more diverse.
Her report highlights the plight of marginalised women with poor English language skills, and calls on the government to further support Esol to help improve community cohesion. It also states that that the government should review whether community-based English language programmes are being made available to those who need them the most.
The report states: "A shared language is fundamental to integrated societies. The government should be supporting further targeted English language provision by making sufficient funding available for community-based English language classes, and through the adult skills budget for local authorities to prioritise English language where there is a need. It should also review whether community-based and skills funded programmes are consistently reaching those who need them most, and whether they are sufficiently coordinated."
'Why we need Esol'
Sue Pember, director of policy and external relationships at adult and community learning provider body Holex, said: “Holex welcomes this report and it reinforces what those working in this area have been saying for some time. The report makes all the underpinning arguments why we need a government-led Esol strategy, so it is disappointing there is no explicit recommendation.
"I was [also] hoping the report would have recognised that the adult education budget cannot just expand to take on this extra activity and resources are needed which replace previous year’s cuts and provide new funds for community-targeted activity.”
In October, TES revealed that, in the absence of a national Esol strategy for England, the National Association for Teaching English and Other Community Languages to Adults had launched its own.
The total funding within the skills budget available for Esol dropped by almost half between 2009-10 and 2014-15. Last year, the Skills Funding Agency announced that all funding for “Esol Plus mandation” programmes would be removed.
The Association of Colleges said that this would affect 16,000 Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants with poor spoken English skills. Earlier this year, Mr Cameron announced £20 million to fund Esol courses for Muslim women.
Stephen Evans, chief executive at Learning and Work Institute, said: “Knowing that language is vital to integration, cohesive communities, social inclusion and individual opportunity, we need urgent action to help the estimated 850,000 people in the UK with Esol needs, as well as the millions of other adults with basic skills needs.
“However, funding for Esol has more than halved in recent years and figures published recently show there are 50,000 fewer Esol learners now than just five years ago. Alongside increased investment, we need to think about how best to engage people and offer support.”