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ESOL Committee of Inquiry Report

Key Documents
Skills for Life Network

Main findings and recommendations of the interim report

The inquiry – led by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) and part-funded by the European Social Fund – found that while there is a shortage of full-time and qualified teachers, demand for ESOL classes is high and student numbers have increased by 65 per cent in two years. However training arrangements show no sign of catching up with the scale of need.

Other problems affecting ESOL include waiting lists for classes. This is familiar in London and is now common in many other areas of the country. The inspectorates regard ESOL as probably the weakest curriculum area in the learning and skills sector, and, despite much good practice, there is not much sign of consistent quality improvement. Migrant workers, particularly from the new EU member countries, are increasing demand although they still make up only 6.1% of the half million ESOL learners in the system and costs are rising with the numbers of learners.

The inquiry notes that ESOL is not just a basic skill. Although courses for those with fewest skills remain a priority, the system has to accommodate demand from skilled migrant labour. The inquiry urges that a fair settlement that makes the most effective use of public money needs to be reached.

In the next few months the inquiry will focus on ESOL for work and employability, how provision should be funded, English language and citizenship, and the issue of ESOL learners in literacy classes. This interim report sets out some of the Committee’s thinking and early recommendations; the final report will also offer firm recommendations for action.

‘More than a language…’ suggests fifteen early recommendations (detailed below) and the Inquiry will publish the final report on 3rd October 2006 at a conference in London.

The 15 early recommendations from ‘More than a language…’ are:
1 There should be a cross-departmental review of the need for ESOL and expenditure on it in the context of the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review.

2 Any review of the funding structure for ESOL and EFL should take into account the convergence between ESOL and EFL and not rely on distinctions which no longer accurately reflect the nature of provision and learners’ needs.

3 The DfES should re-examine the place of ESOL in the Skills for Life strategy and the arrangements for its implementation to ensure that the distinctive needs of ESOL learners are given proper weight.

4 ALI and OfSTED should undertake a survey inspection which would analyse existing reports and undertake some field visits, with a view to making recommendations, taking into account the recommendations of this Committee.

5 The appropriateness of the current ILP format for ESOL learners, particularly at lower levels, should be reviewed, in the light of the need to ensure that learning is properly planned and that the mechanisms used are appropriate to the skills and needs of learners.

6 The survey inspection proposed by the Committee should examine in particular how appropriately skilled and qualified learning assistants, learning support workers and teaching assistants can be used to support programmes.

7 Consideration should be given to a programme of research into the most effective pedagogic approaches to underpin the use of ICT to support ESOL learning and teaching.

8 Consideration should be given to allowing holders of TESOL diplomas to be considered as qualified for the purpose of the Success for All targets.

9 Urgent consideration should be given to extending the cut-off date for courses meeting the current standards, to avoid a lacuna of courses in September 2007.

10 Consideration should be given to the possibility of a one-off snapshot survey of the ESOL workforce to provide a proper benchmark for the development of workforce policy.

11 Further consideration should be given to the issue of a clear career structure for ESOL teachers, leading wherever possible to full-time, permanent jobs, in order to provide motivation to undertake professional training.

12 HEFCE and LSC should consider the level at which they are prepared to fund ESOL teacher training, to ensure that the new qualifications include high quality teaching practice placements in a range of learning contexts with support from ESOL specialist teacher trainers and mentors.

13 Guidelines to LEAs on means-tested maintenance grants and funding guidelines for teachers taking ESOL teacher training courses should be clarified.

14 Any revisions to the funding system should be based on learners’ circumstances rather than on a categorisation of types of provision.

15 Guidance to local LSCs should make it clear that Entry Level 1 and 2 provision leading to nationally approved qualifications is fundable, and that one of the objectives of their purchasing strategy for ESOL should be to achieve a balanced portfolio of provision with clear progression routes available for learners.

You can access the full report from the NIACE website.

For more information or to comment on the report, please contact:

Ed Melia, NIACE Press Officer on 0116 204 4248 or 07795 358 870.

Dr Jane Ward, regional development officer for the North West region for NIACE on 07812 604 993 or

Peter Lavender, deputy director at NIACE on 0116 204 4206 or


Source: NIACE press release

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