Migrants can't find English teachers

19th May 2006 at 01:00
Foreigners must pass a language test to be British, so why isn't Britain providing enough courses for them?

Immigrants cannot find enough English language teachers to help them pass the British citizenship test.

Previously only London was short of teachers, but now there are waiting lists for courses in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) across the country, says a report by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education.

Demand for courses has increased as a result of the language tests for would-be citizens and the influx of immigrants from the new member countries of the European Union. Areas with no history of accommodating asylum seekers are under pressure.

Immigrants from the new EU states only make up 6.1 per cent of the 500,000 people learning English, but their numbers are growing rapidly. In 2000, there were just 151 Polish workers taking English classes. Four years later, there were 13,137.

Over the past two years, overall ESOL student numbers have risen by 65 per cent. But the interim report of Niace's inquiry into ESOL, based on a survey of teachers, college managers and civil servants, says that demand is not being met.

Peter Lavender, deputy director of NIACE, said: "We have got increased migration, increased demand from people settled here and we have got the demand in relation to citizenship.

"Education officials told us this is the most sensitive area, not only because of what I call the BNP viewpoint. It's a rapidly expanding area when there are fewer resources to deal with it.

"These are a hugely disenfranchised bunch of adult learners who shouldn't be on waiting lists and should be getting opportunities."

It is estimated that 500 extra English language teachers are needed every year in London to meet the demand from new arrivals and settled residents wanting to improve their English .

The report highlights how the lack of information about demand is obstructing planning and recommends carrying out a snapshot survey of the workforce.

It also warns that recruitment of teachers could be hit by new training standards. There is a risk that there will be no new teacher-training courses for ESOL in September 2007, because institutions are struggling to meet the new standards.

ESOL teachers also need a clear career structure, leading to full-time, permanent jobs, rather than the temporary, part-time work usually available, the report said.

Too many courses are substandard, with a fifth in colleges and a quarter of local-authority adult courses rated inadequate.

But the Niace report stopped short of calling for more money. It notes that funds for ESOL increased from pound;170 million to pound;256m between 2001 and 2004.

The Learning and Skills Council is investigating if some students can be charged, but those questioned by the report's authors were concerned about this, as many support families overseas with low-paid jobs.

Colleges said that they were also having to cope with new types of student including rising numbers of young people. As well as unaccompanied children seeking asylum, there are adolescents from the Indian subcontinent joining their families. Some 14 to 16 year-olds cannot find places in schools, leaving colleges to cope without the proper resources.

The report More than a language is available from www.niace.org.uk

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