English for Speakers of Other Languages

Meeting: 
MQT on 2007-01-30
Session date: 
January 30, 2007
Reference: 
2007/0173
Question By: 
Andrew Pelling
Organisation: 
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

Do you support your Party's removal of access to free English for Speakers of Other Languages for asylum seekers (insofar as it relates to London)?

Answer

Answer for English for Speakers of Other Languages

Answer for English for Speakers of Other Languages

Answered By: 
The Mayor

In the DfES Grant Letter to the LSC in October 2006 the Government instigated two changes in regulations which impact on asylum seekers generally but also on all students of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) whatever their legal status.Firstly, asylum seekers' right to access any form of further education is withdrawn. Asylum seekers would therefore have to await a positive initial determination of their status before being able to enrol for any FE provision.Secondly, up until now students who enrol for ESOL provision have been entitled to full fee remission and therefore receive free tuition. The changes mean that from the academic year 2007/8 only people who are eligible for fee remission on account of being in receipt of benefit would continue to receive ESOL.I have made clear my view that both these provisions are mistaken both directly to the relevant minister and when I gave evidence to the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee on 23rd October 2006.I believe it is important for community cohesion in London and elsewhere that asylum seekers should be equipped with the skills to be able to live and make a positive contribution in our society. Especially as the decisions on applicants' status are notoriously delayed, it is unacceptable and poor public policy to refuse access to education to people who desperately want it.On the ESOL decision, I do not think the Government fully thought through the implications. To remove fee remission from those working in low paid employment or from family members who may not themselves be direct benefit recipients is a backward step.On the one hand I am being asked by the Home Office to lead work on refugee integration in London and on the other the DfES is pricing people out of ESOL provision, one of the keys to integration. I will continue to play my part in seeking to reverse these policy changes.