Ofqual consults on ESOL

Regulations that govern foreign learners of English could be scrapped.

Ofqual is considering three options for the future of ESOL (English for speakers of other languages), including the withdrawal of existing regulations for ESOL Skills for Life and ESOL for Work qualifications. Other suggestions are for a new qualification called ESOL for Life in the UK or simply a revision of current rules.

An Ofqual spokesperson said: “New regulations will make ESOL more robust and fit for the purposes for which they are now used.

“For example, we propose that qualifications used for immigration-related purposes should be 100 per cent externally assessed and include identity checks of each student at each assessment, while other types of ESOL qualifications could use more flexible approaches to assessment.

“Our proposals are designed to secure the standards of the whole ESOL suite of qualifications and promote public confidence in them.”

The proposals were welcomed by Chris Taylor, ESOL programme manager at the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE). “This review presents an important opportunity, not only to revise and update the existing regulations, but also to redevelop and make them more relevant.

“One of the consultation principles is to promote public confidence in them. This was identified as an area for further research in the NIACE-led ESOL Inquiry in 2006 and it remains a matter of concern.

“ESOL qualifications need to be recognised by employers – as well as education and training providers – if they are to have any value and if they are to help support learners progress into further study or to open up new careers for them.”

She said NIACE would welcome a new language qualification at level three that had “currency for academic and professional progression”.

Ofqual plans three consultation events — in Belfast, Leeds and London — in November. Email reform@ofqual.gov.uk for further details or to register for these events.

The Welsh Government is expected to be seeking feedback on the proposals in Wales.

Comments on the proposals should be emailed to consultations@ofqual.gov.uk by the deadline of December 3.

Proposal one:

Introduce general conditions of recognition for a new qualification called ESOL for life in the UK. Ofqual: “We propose introducing regulations for a new qualification called ESOL for life in the UK which must meet specific rules including 100 per cent external assessment and the verification of the identity of those being assessed. These new rules should allow awarding organisations to demonstrate more clearly that their ESOL qualifications meet Home Office requirements.”

Proposal two:

Introduce revised general conditions of recognition for ESOL International qualifications, based on existing regulations. Ofqual: “This proposal introduces 100 per cent external assessment for ESOL international qualifications, whereas the existing rules allow up to 25 per cent internal assessment in limited circumstances.”

Proposal three:

Withdraw existing regulations for ESOL Skills for Life and ESOL for Work qualifications. Ofqual: “We propose to withdraw the additional rules applied to ESOL Skills for Life and ESOL for Work qualifications. Awarding organisations could develop these qualifications to meet their centres’ needs and these qualifications would still need to comply with our general conditions of recognition.”