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ESOL for Skills

This report argues that, in the face of an acute skills crisis in Britain, better provision of English for Speakers of Other Languages – ESOL – should now be a key strategy for tackling skills gaps and skills shortages.

While in the past the delivery of ESOL has been framed as an important way of ensuring community cohesion and social integration, it now needs to be seen as a vital component of a strategy for economic growth. ESOL for Skills should now be the priority, and policy and funding should be reformed to support this focus.

There is a growing pool of migrants, many of them skilled and experienced professionals, who are UK residents. The biggest barrier they face to filling jobs in shortage areas is their ability to communicate in English, not just basic everyday English, but at a level of competence in speaking and writing that enables them to work effectively in highly skilled occupations. Greatly improving the delivery of ESOL is the best way of mobilising the skills that exist amongst the migrant population.

Image by Julien Riedel
09 December 2022
Key recommendations include:
  1. The DfE should develop an ESOL Strategy for England, laying out plans for teaching, learning and student support, and covering not just issues of social cohesion and integration, but ESOL for skills.

  2. The ESOL Strategy for England should be “settlement-positive”, enabling the provision of free English language teaching to all those seeking UK citizenship after six months in the UK.

  3. ESOL provision up to Level 2 should be fully funded across England for all refugees and asylum seekers, by making courses eligible for full fee remission.

  4. Funding for ESOL courses up to and including Level 2 should be raised to enable at least 360 hours of tuition per year to be delivered.

  5. Specific support funding for ESOL students, including Refugees and Asylum seekers, should be allocated to all providers, based on the numbers of ESOL students enrolled. The amount of funding should be set at a level to enable providers to offer services to meet welfare and mental health needs.

  6. Access to HE courses specifically tailored to the needs of ESOL students should be introduced, with loans for these courses written off if students progress to higher education, as is already the case with other similar courses.

  7. It should be a requirement that ESOL for skills is considered as a specific strand in all Local Skills Improvement Plans.

  8. ESOL tuition should be offered in addition to vocational training in selected growth industries and industries with severe skills shortages. These sectors could be identified nationally, but devolved authorities should have the power to include additional sectors based on local needs analysis.

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