We are morally compelled as a nation to do our absolute best to help immigrants who struggle with speaking English, to integrate smoothly into our rich melting pot of a society.

It’s such an important policy area, in terms of helping secure jobs and preventing significant numbers of people from feeling isolated.

That’s why I feel just as frustrated as Jenny Roden and Sue Pember that provision is being undermined by competing government departments.

DCLG seems to think it should be delivered by unpaid “small voluntary and community groups”.

I’m inclined to think they should leave it to the professionals at FE colleges, who have taught ESOL for decades. I hope and suspect ministers at the DfE agree with this.

Everything needs to be pulled together and made the sole responsibility of the department dedicated to education.

It’s hard to understand why there isn’t a national strategy already in place. Drawing one up and increasing funding should be a key priority.

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  1. That can only work if FE colleges become more flexible in their provision. The advantages of community providers are multiple:
    – No achievement targets to hit means community providers can individualise lesson plans to ensure they are covering what the learners want to learn, when they want to learn it.
    – Women accessing women-only classes when their husbands won’t allow them to join mixed classes.
    – Parents being able to attend classes timed to suit school hours.
    – People working 0 hour contracts being able to attend when their shifts allow.
    – Learners not being excluded (as they are from college) when the chaotic life that is imposed on them as asylum seekers might prevent them from attending regularly “enough”.
    – Providing Pre Entry sessions for 16-18 year olds when there is no accredited course and it is therefore not offered at colleges.
    – Providing a holistic approach to education – providing support for welfare, social, digital, financial issues as well as or alongside English classes.
    College may be ideal for those who want to gain certification, but for many, a community provider may be the stepping stone to access the more formal learning experience.
    One last thing; just because it’s not taught in a formal FE college setting, it doesn’t mean the teachers are not professionals or experts.