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Statement on George Osborne’s Spending Review of 26 June 2013

We Should Speak English ESOL

In his Spending Review, George Osborne announced that “From now on, if claimants don’t speak English, they will have to attend language courses until they do. This is a reasonable requirement in this country. It will help people find work. But if you’re not prepared to learn English, your benefits will be cut.”

As ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages)  teachers  and teaching union members, we know that this statement contains many contradictions which the national Action for ESOL campaign has highlighted again and again over the last few years.

First of all, the problem with learning English is not a lack of willingness to learn. Many ESOL providers report lengthy waiting lists and heavily over-subscribed courses; they cannot meet the demand. The problem for those who wish to learn English is the lack of access to classes due to year on year cuts to Further Education funding, cuts to FE and ESOL provision and loss of ESOL teaching jobs. Across the board, FE providers have suffered an 8% cut in funding this year and this has led to increased staff redundancies and course closures. In many individual colleges the funding cuts are as high as 25%.

In 2010 the national Action for ESOL campaign was co-founded by  ESOL  teachers  supported by UCU, NATECLA and other organisations as a response to the announcement that students on benefits, mainly women, would be forced to pay up to £1000 for an ESOL course. A year of campaigning resulted in a U-Turn by the government on this policy.

Another contradiction is that when students on benefits do get a place on an ESOL course, they are then penalised financially by restrictions on their eligibility for free classes. This is particularly the case for the those who are working in part-time or low -paid jobs who are forced to pay for a year’s course because the benefits they receive are classed as ‘inactive’. When George Osbourne says learning English will help people find work he is absolutely right. Yet under the same government policies, low paid workers are penalised despite being both willing to learn and also having succeeded in finding work.

The majority of migrants both want and need to learn English and the claim that they do not belongs to the racialised immigration and cultural agenda in which migrants are scape-goated and ‘language’ often serves as a proxy for race.

Anti-immigration and racist ideas are being popularised by  political parties like UKIP; the tragic death of Lee Rigby in Woolwich was exploited by far right organisations like the English Defence League by taking to the streets and attacking mosques round the country; and racially motivated assaults on individuals is on the increase. In this context, negative stereo-typing of ESOL learners and migrants in this way is not only a false portrayal of those who wish to learn English and find work, but also sets a dangerous tone for those groups who are becoming increasingly vulnerable.

Reports from the ESOL Parliamentary Lobby on 18.3.13


ESOL lobbyOver 300 ESOL students packed into Westminster for the Parliamentary Lobby on 18th March 2013, called by Action for ESOL and Heidi Alexander MP.

A speaker from the Skills Funding Agency, due to pressure from the students on the day, agreed that the funding protection for ESOL provision, already in place for 1 year, would be extended for a further year. This was a fantastic result and showed how well the students presented their case when they met with MPs and speakers at Parliament.

Copies of the materials provided by Action for ESOL can be found here:  Action for ESOL factsheet      Slideshow Presentation

and the Guardian article about the ESOL lobby  here .

These are 2 reports written by students who attended the lobby:


My name is Jelena and I’m 29 years old. I came into United Kingdom 6 years ago when I was 24 years old.

When I arrived in England I could not speak, write or understand English at all. It was very difficult to even buy a loaf of bread without having a friend with me to translate.

After sometime I found out about Lewisham College and how they could help me. I decided to join on trial basis and carried on.

I managed to achieve not only understanding but also speaking and writing, which has benefited me a lot. I believe it is not only me who has benefited from all this but everyone who joins on this course.

Within the 3 years so far at Lewisham College I have gone through ESOL Entry 1 and Entry 2 and ESOL Entry 3 now together with Health and Social Care.

All these courses have made me able to settle in England and also communicate with everyone making me a better person.

I also now can apply for jobs which before I could not because of lack of English.

I would like to plead with you not to close these classes.


ESOL for us!                 Debate at the Houses of Parliament

Over the last few years the European Union has been considerably affected by the potentially bad economic situation. The United Kingdom has  been one of the economies that superficially looks good, apart from the cuts that have affected many people. ESOL is one of these ‘cuts’  and the threat is that it possibly won’t continue any more or be greatly reduced.

In March 2013 I was invited to support, different groups that are against of these ‘cuts’ in a parliamentary session at the Houses of Parliament and I was there for the whole afternoon with the many other people who feel strongly about this.

I realized there the great number of people who have been helped through “English as a Second Language”.  This has helped the individuals concerned and also society, as people are able to find better jobs and to integrate more if their language improves.

I’d like to add that all those personal little stories expressed at the session room at Houses of Parliament have increased my interest in supporting this movement and also I feel very happy that I have been helped and encouraged by ESOL. It was a very interesting experience for me and I learnt a lot.  I hope ESOL will continue for others.

Jorge Alba


The  main points of the funding methodology and the transitional arrangements:

·        The new funding methodology is based on QCF credits. ESOL qualifications are not yet on the QCF so they stand outside the new methodology. There is work going on around new ESOL qualifications which will be part of the QCF. This is why they were assigned guided learning hours. In 2015 at least part of the SFA funding will be made over to Local Enterprise Partnerships.

·        Transitional arrangements for the next 2 academic years.  Learners who started before 2013/2014 will be funded to completion at 2012/2013 rates, making sure that the full rate is earned when they achieve their learning aim. This applies to 2 year courses not when a student repeats the course. So this means that the funding for those students starting in 2013/2014 will be funded at + or – 3% of the funding earned for similar courses limited to gains and losses of 3% in 2013/2014. This will be = or –  6% in 2014/2015, based on like-for-like provision and the provider’s earnings from 2011/2012

·        If there are still some providers with significant funding losses or gains than the SFA will consider extending the transitional arrangements on a case-by-case basis.

·        The latest SFA publication (attached) says this about ESOL: ” Make sure that ESOL provision is protected separately until the new ESOL curriculum is developed in the QCF. For 2013/2014 this will operate using the funding-claims process, where we compare earnings against payments made to a provider. We will make sure that earnings relating to ESOL provision are at least the same as in 2012/2013, based on like-for-like provision.

·         The recent announcements on the Loans Scheme applications to date from BIS all stress that younger learners are more prepared to take out loans and this could impact on ESOL learners.

ESOL funding and the Citizenship agenda…

IMG_2675 …a Parliamentary meeting called by Heidi Alexander MP /Action for ESOL at the Houses of Parliament  3-5pm on Monday 18th March in Committee Room 5.

Attendees, don’t forget:
  • write to your MP and invite them to the meeting
  • you don’t need to register beforehand, just turn up on the day –  a print-out with details about the lobby might be handy
  • it can take a long time to get through security if there is a queue, so we recommend getting there at 2pm
These are the key issues that will be raised with MPs at the lobby and meeting in Parliament on Monday. There is also a factsheet here which we’ll be distributing at the meeting.

1. Action for ESOL – the campaign’s agenda. Contradiction of political parties insisting immigrants learn English & blaming them for not wanting to, yet cutting funding and restricting access to provision at the same time. The cumulative impact on ESOL students of cuts and changes, including bedroom tax, benefit cuts, etc.

2. Adult Funding overall and the future of Adult Ed., FE loans & progression for ESOL students

3. Specific funding, diversification of funding streams and qualification changes to ESOL provision

4. ESOL, social cohesion and citizenship. Contradictions of the social cohesion agenda and effects of changes to citizenship requirement.

5. Professionalism, jobs for highly-skilled teachers and how voluntary sector fits in

6. ESOL and work/ aspirations.

Join the Facebook event here

Action for ESOL Facebook group:

Twitter :


ESOL Parliamentary Lobby!

ESOL umbrellas tiffIn order to address recent concerns over ESOL funding and the Citizenship agenda, a Parliamentary meeting has been called by Heidi Alexander MP /Action for ESOL at the Houses of Parliament for 3-5pm on Monday 18th March. The meeting will take place in Committee Room 5.

The event is open to all with an interest in ESOL. We would like a mix of ESOL students and practitioners to take part so we would be especially grateful if teachers could invite their students to participate.

All ESOL supporters and students who are concerned by recent developments should consider writing to their MPs and suggest that they attend. This can be done very easily through the following website: Students may want to prepare questions to ask MPs when they are there.

We would particularly like people who can give insight on:

  • Funding
  • Case studies
  • Research into time needed to learn languages.
  • Barriers to learners accessing provision.

However all are welcome, whatever their connection to ESOL

There is no need to pre-register to attend, but attendees should bear in mind that getting through security at the Palace of Westiminster can take some time (details here: And, in case of rain and long queues – don’t forget to bring an umbrella!

Next Action for ESOL Meeting

In view of recent activities concerning cuts to ESOL funding and Miliband’s immigration speech, Action for ESOL has called a meeting on Saturday January 12th at 11am at St. Margaret’s House, 21 Old Ford Rd, Bethnal Green, E2 9PL. The venue is a few minutes walk from Bethnal Green underground.

The meeting is open to everyone so please forward to your networks, staffrooms, etc.

Provisional agenda :
· Funding for ’13-14 and beyond
· Immigration speeches
· ESOL qualifications (proposals to link these more closely with immigration controls)
· Cuts to ESOL in Lambeth and other councils
· Meeting with MPs
· Next meeting – location and date

The room will be booked from 11am to 2pm to allow time for some lunch and for some collaborative writing for the Action for ESOL website, press releases, letters to MPs/ councils/etc for those that wish to participate.

Please forward to your lists and look forward to seeing you there

AfE press release

Miliband on One Nation, English and common bonds       14th December 2012

The leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband, said on 14th December that ‘English language must be a priority’ in Labour’s ‘One Nation’. Action for ESOL would welcome full funding of ESOL classes for all who need them, both newcomers and residents alike. But we cannot rely solely on ‘local authorities, communities and charities’ to meet the need: if Labour is serious about English language learning, it must guarantee to make funding a government spending priority. The cuts made both by the Coalition and previous Labour governments have greatly reduced the provision of ESOL classes in recent years, especially in those community settings where it is needed most. It is this that is the biggest obstacle stopping people from learning English.

We would also stress that although access to English should be available to everyone, integration is a complex process, not reducible to a set of responsibilities for migrants. Lack of integration and cohesion – Miliband’s ‘common bonds’ – is more likely to be caused by class inequality, poverty and racism, and cannot be reduced to simplistic notions of English language competence.

See the Action for ESOL manifesto here

Support London Met

London Met’s international students face deportation midway through their studies following a ban by the UK Border Agency. This will not only leave thousands of students stranded and unable to continue their courses, but will also have a devastating effect on universities’ hopes of attracting international students to the UK in the future.
This action by the UKBA has come on top of continued attempts to privatise London Met and to make massive cuts to courses and jobs.
This is our message of support:

Action for ESOL sends support and solidarity in the fight to stop the deportation of international students from London Met.

As ESOL teachers, students and supporters we see at first hand the impact of every government’s immigration agenda. We saw that recent speeches on immigration by both David Cameron and Ed Miliband attempted to lay the blame of their parties’ failed policies on immigrants, encouraging racism to foster.

With the coalition government now facing attack from all sides over its failing austerity program, they are having to resort to racist tactics such as this to try and rally support and votes.

We also recognise that this attack is part of an on-going attempt to privatise Higher Education, beginning with London Met, and Action for ESOL supports you in saying no to the privatisation of education.

Action for ESOL will be asking all supporters to condemn this action by UKBA and to support London Met on Friday’s demo and any future protests.
In solidarity
Action for ESOL
We call on all ESOL supporters to take part in the following protests and petitions to save London Met’s international students from deportation, to lift the UKBA’s ban and to stop the privatisation of London Met:
·       On Friday 14th September, there will be a UK-wide lunchtime solidarity protest outside colleges/ universities/ workplaces from 12.30 to 1.30, demanding an Amnesty for all London Met international students, a reversal of the UKBA ban, and no to privatisation.

Supporters are asked to make posters and placards – “Hands Off Our Students” and send in photos of their protests to: Mark Campbell (

·       On Thursday 13th of September, London Met UCU, Unison and Students Union  will be hosting a public meeting/rally at North Campus – Tower Building, room TM-183 from 5-7pm entitled ‘Education not Deportation – Save London Met’.

Please try and send a delegation with banner from your college or workplace. Download flyer here: London Met Thu poster.

·       London Met are also asking you to encourage your members to lobby their MPs to sign EDM 437 by Jeremy Corbyn demanding the lifting of the ban on London Met. See:

·       And don’t forget to sign the petition here:

Issue 2 of ESOL News is now available online

ESOL News aims to keep students and their teachers informed about
the policy changes and developments affecting them as well as giving students the opportunity to contribute to debate and the longer term future and direction of ESOL provision.

ESOL News aims to be a regular topical newsletter for the ESOL community written by students and teachers themselves.

In issue 2 we feature the recent changes to immigration rules and the ESOL Manifesto, as well as student views on exams and their poems and stories. Also information on the Call out to take action! the AfE demo challenging recent government rules on immigration.

Wondering what to do with your class tomorrow morning? Look no further!

ESOL News is accompanied by a range of teaching and learning materials at different levels based on the articles and stories in the main publication. Our aim is to provide teachers with a topical and timely resource bank which will inform and support teachers to address real-world issues affecting students in their classrooms. Materials (both paper-based and online) as well as an ‘interactive’ version of ESOL News and lots of other resources and ideas are available on our website.

Check it out at

We are keen to hear from students and teachers who would like to help and contribute to future issues. Please get in touch with us if you want to get involved. We’d also appreciate constructive feedback on what we have done so far.

Thank you
The ESOL News Team

Action for ESOL petition condemning Ed Miliband’s immigration speech

Statement from Action for ESOL on Miliband’s Speech

As ESOL teachers, students and supporters we feel the impact of every Government’s immigration agenda. We oppose the division of workers and celebrate diversity. Across the UK, ordinary people, whatever their backgrounds, are facing the same attacks on their living conditions. We are proud of the diversity which is modern Britain. To confront the problems we all face, multi-culturalism, tolerance and mutual respect are indispensable.

David Cameron’s attack on multi-culturalism and accusation that migrants refuse to integrate and learn English was a blatant attempt to divide the opposition to the government’s austerity program. There is no lack of will to learn English as the long waiting lists clearly show; there is a lack of affordable classes though.

It is appalling that the leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband, chose, in his recent speech, to try to identify immigrants as a cause of lack of housing, lack of jobs and low wages. There is no evidence to suggest that immigrants are to blame for these social problems. In fact, all the evidence shows that:

· Migrants pay £2.5 billion more in taxes than they receive through public services such as the NHS.

· Migrants are less likely to receive welfare or live in social housing than those born in the UK.

· Asylum seekers do not jump the queue for council housing, they cannot choose where they live.

We condemn Miliband’s statement, particularly at a time when maximum unity is essential in order to defend decent homes, jobs, and public services for all.

Action for ESOL has launched a petition calling on supporters to condemn the recent immigration speech by Ed Miliband.

Please click here to sign the petition.

Action for ESOL opposes language testing plans in government immigration overhaul



Press contacts: Melanie Cooke 07880 948 564

James Simpson 0113 343 4687

Action for ESOL, in conjunction with the Migrants Rights Network and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, strongly opposes government plans, announced by the UK Border Agency on June 13, to raise the level of English language and literacy required for British citizenship and settlement in the UK. Along with other controversial changes, many of which come into effect on Monday, anyone who is a spouse or family member applying for settlement in the UK from October 2013 will be required to pass an intermediate level English language examination, in addition to the Life in the UK Test. At the same time, the current entitlement to take English and citizenship classes in lieu of the Life in the UK test will be scrapped.

Action for ESOL believes the level of the tests is too high. Many would-be citizens, who, as a result of conflict, gender discrimination or poverty, possess poor literacy skills in their native languages will find this level far out of their reach.

Many would-be applicants of lower language ability will be denied the right to study and improve their English in ‘ESOL and Citizenship’ classes as part of their route to settlement, as they are currently able to do. Rather than promoting English language learning for those seeking settlement, the new measure will greatly reduce opportunities for many who might otherwise have been able to develop their English language proficiency to become fully integrated British citizens. The new rule is therefore incompatible with the government view that ‘English Language is the corner-stone of integration’.

Action for ESOL believes these changes are discriminatory and racist and little more than a vote-grasping strategy which will be to the detriment of poor working class and minority ethnic communities.

For details about the changes in immigration rules see

For more information about Action for ESOL visit