Speakeasy ESOL class, Ashton-Under-Lyne. Photo by : St. Peter's Community News.
Providers of ESOL in the UK (including further education colleges, adult education centres, and charities) are facing massive cuts to their funding. Since 1997, most ESOL students in the UK have been able to access free ESOL classes in their local area (waiting lists not withstanding).
Some cuts were made in 2007 by the previous government which barred some asylum seekers and migrant workers from accessing free classes. However, the cuts announced by the new coalition government, will be much more wide-ranging. From September, the only people eligible for free ESOL will be those on Jobseekers Allowance, the UK's unemployment benefit. It is estimated by ESOL teaching organisation NATECLA that this will prevent about 70% of potential ESOL students being eligible for free classes since they are not in receipt of this benefit. They will instead be asked to pay up to £1000 a year in tuition fees.
I personally think that some ESOL students should be asked to pay, or at least contribute towards their education. However, there are many asylum seekers, refugees, foreign spouses of British nationals, and low-income migrant workers that simply cannot afford the £550-£1000 a year. ESOL classes represent their best chance of getting into employment and off state handouts in the long-term. The government's policies could end up costing them more in the long-run, given that without decent English skills, prospects for employment here are grim.
With the ESOL cuts and the new student visa rules that could affect private EFL courses too, it seems the government are intent on reducing English language education in the very country it originated!
For more information:
Action For ESOL, a campaign launched by NATECLA and the UCU
Jobs anguish for immigrants as English courses face cuts, The Observer