Mayoral candidates Sadiq Khan and Shaun Bailey pledge to helping migrants access English classes

By Tallulah Taylor

Campaigners have received a commitment from Mayor of London candidates, Shaun Bailey and Sadiq Khan, to provide migrants with better access to English classes.

Both candidates gave a “firm” commitment at the London Citizens Mayoral Accountability Assembly to launching and staffing a multilingual website for ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes, in front of an audience of over 5,000 viewers.

This commitment from the Conservative and Labour Mayoral candidates comes after the #LoveESOL campaign wrote an open letter to Sadiq Khan.

The letter stated that migrants across the UK struggle to find an appropriate English class.

Menal Edan

At the moment they find classes through word of mouth and have nowhere to find information about other English classes after being turned away or put on a waiting list.

This is an inefficient use of resources as some centres have long waiting lists and others struggle to fill up their classes.

Mothers with young children are unable to access classes without childcare, workers cannot find classes that fit with their work schedules and some students are excluded by eligibility restrictions tied to their immigration status.

The ESOL community believes that creating a multilingual website will help to centralise information and make sure migrants are able to access English classes.

Menal (from Iraq), English for Action ESOL student in Lambeth said:‘When I first arrived in London, my new home, I felt shy and shamed.

“People struggled to understand me. I wanted to learn English but I didn’t know where to find a class.

“It’s really difficult to find courses, especially if someone doesn’t speak English very well. It took me three years to find an English course.”

Adela Belecova, a Southwark-based ESOL teacher and the #LoveESOL Campaigning Coordinator said: ‘For many migrants, not being able to improve their English is not only a barrier to finding good work, supporting their children and living a full life, but can also leave them vulnerable to exploitation at work.

“If we could ensure better provision of classes and information on where they are happening, as well as relax restrictions about who can attend, it would improve many lives and make London more inclusive.”

The ESOL community believes that learning English is one of the cornerstones of a fair and equal London, it helps people find work or access training as well as make friends and learn about life in London.

Fewer than 14 per cent of migrants in need of ESOL classes are currently accessing them as funding for the classes was cut nationally by 60 per cent – from over £200 million in 2009 to just over £100 million today.

ESOL provision has seen cuts of over 50 per cent  in the past decade, with waiting lists now reaching 1,000 people.

The #LoveESOL coalition is made up of 32 organisations including ESOL students and providers across South London, South London Citizens, Parents and Communities Together Southwark, Central Southwark Community Hub, Salvation Army Camberwell, Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network and Surrey Square Primary School.

It was set up by English for Action who provide English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses for adult migrants in communities across London and campaign on issues affecting migrants.


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