The Mayor’s Strategy For Supporting English as a Second Language (ESOL Courses) in London is Bankrupt

The Mayor recently announced a £15 million injection for 9 further education colleges in London that were facing sharp cuts in funding for English as a Second Language courses. The announcement in May 2007 shores up provision and does not provide extra ESOL spaces in these colleges even though need has dramatically increased due to the migration of communities like the Somali, Turkish Speaking and Eastern European groups.

I have investigated and talked to ESOL providers in the last 4 weeks. I found severe shortages in some areas and further Government pressures by the introduction of heavy fees to cover administration costs, other expenses and overheads. Also, support and assistance from the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) used to be regarded as being a qualifying benefit for free ESOL courses. More worryingly, this is not the case now and more and more people are ending up on waiting lists, some of whom cannot afford the courses and others who simply cannot get a place.

The Mayor has prided himself on work around integration and gave himself a pat on the back for finding money to shore up ESOL classes in 9 further education colleges in London. The reality is that asylum seekers who need English as a basic tool for integration cannot afford the courses and NASS support is now no longer a qualifying benefit for free ESOL classes. The Mayor has also given the impression that he is throwing further resources to support ESOL provision. The fact is that waiting lists are getting longer and places are limited, especially at low level ESOL classes. How this helps integration baffles me and this shows that the Mayor is out of touch on integration issues.

It is time that he left his office, move out of Zone 1 and listen to further education colleges in outer London Boroughs where outward migration from Central London is having major effects.

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