Sector set to step up for Muslim women’s £20m English funding

The services of colleges and independent learning providers (ILPs) could be called upon to deliver English language lessons to Muslim women from a £20m fund announced by the Prime Minister.

David Cameron said on Monday (January 18) that the government needed to be “more clear about the expectations we place on those who come to live here” and the new fund would help Muslim women from areas with “segregation” issues to integrate more smoothly into British society.

A government spokesperson told FE Week two days later that it planned to launch “a bid process on who will deliver these classes to encourage a wide range of approaches and providers that meet the specific needs of women in the most isolated communities”.

She added the plan was to make “the fund open to all providers”, so FE colleges and ILPs could bid to run the classes in the women’s homes, local schools and community facilities, with travel and childcare costs provided for learners.

She added the £20m would be allocated “on top of existing Esol [English for speakers of other languages] schemes — which have seen more than £800m of government investment since 2010 and supported over 800,000 learners.

“In addition, we have invested £8m for community-based English tuition, which will have helped 33,500 isolated people by March 2016.”

When asked about colleges lodging bids for a slice of the new fund, an Association of Colleges spokesperson told FE Week they “will work with national and local government to support all communities to access English language courses at FE colleges, as a means of helping them to integrate in society”.

But AoC chief executive Martin Doel said the new fund would “not make up for” previous cuts to English language provision.

He added the government had made a 50 per cent (£160m) reduction in the funds available for Esol courses from 2008 to 2015.

Meanwhile, the Association for Employment and Learning Providers’ chief executive Stewart Segal said: “We’re not sure why this had to be part of a stand-alone fund, when it could have been part of mainstream funding which would allow providers to integrate provision with other programmes.”

The government declined to response to Mr Segal’s comment.