Supporting the vulnerable

5th October 2007 at 01:00

Your article stating that the number of immigrants learning English has "collapsed" due to the introduction of fees ("Fees policy hits Esol enrolment", September 28) paints a misleading picture of our new funding strategy.

Enrolment on English for Speakers of Other Languages courses for the new term is still under way and full enrolment data will not be available until December. Immigrants need not be priced out of the market. The demand for Esol is huge, but we don't have unlimited money. The new policy will ensure funds support the most vulnerable groups, as identified by the Race Equality Impact Assessment. Funding is designed to free up courses for these hard-to-reach and excluded learners and cut long waiting lists.

Migrant workers who are earning money and benefiting from English-classes should pay a contribution to their learning. For learners paying fees, the Government still contributes at least 62.5 per cent of the cost of a course.

I will be launching the new Esol for Work qualifications on October 16. Courses will be shorter and more work-focused and will enable learners and employers to get the English skills they need quickly.

Bill Rammell

Minister for lifelong learning, further and higher education

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