English key to integration event

English language training: why is it important?

Not being able to speak good English prevents refugees and migrants from getting a job and from moving on in life. We want to improve this situation.

Learning English is essential

Many migrants and refugees who come to London will already be able to speak English very well, but a significant number cannot.

For people who cannot, learning English is vital. It enables them to:

  • understand the systems and the new culture
  • access health and other services
  • get jobs
  • move into higher skilled work
  • support their children’s education
  • feel safe in their local area
  • become part of local communities
  • contribute to London’s life

We want all refugees and migrants to learn English to improve their lives and their employment prospects.

We also want refugees and migrants who are already in low-paid, low-skilled jobs to improve their English, so that they can improve their job prospects. Often they have experience and qualifications from other countries which could be valuable to London.

Barriers to learning English

It is important that we understand what prevents migrants and refugees from learning English in London, so we carried out several studies.

English Language for All was published in 2012. This study suggested a number of ways to improve access to English language learning in London. For example:

  • holding classes in a small area, such as schools
  • online learning, for people who can’t commit to regular face-to-face learning
  • using ‘volunteer friends’ so that learners can practice what they’ve learnt in classes

The Analysis of English Language Employment Support Provision in London report was also published in 2012. This report looked at Jobcentre Plus customers whose English language level was a barrier to them getting a job.

Supporting English language learning through schools

In some London boroughs, 70 to 80 per cent of pupils don't speak English as their first language.

In 2014 we launched our programme: English – the key to integration. This programme is funded by £1.5m from the European Integration Fund and £500,000 from the London Schools Excellence Fund.

The main goal of the programme is to help primary and secondary schools to teach children with English as an additional language. The programme aims to do this by:

  • creating a learning environment which will improve achievements of pupils with English as an additional language
  • teaching mothers English through their child's school
  • improving the involvement of mothers from outside the EU in their child’s education

Access to English language learning: for workers

We also carried out research into the barriers preventing refugees and migrants in low-paid and low-skilled jobs from improving their English language skills.

We interviewed 50 migrant workers and asked them what prevents migrants from learning English, and what we could do to help. Ten reasons were identified from the interviews:

  • lack of information about the opportunities available
  • cost of the classes
  • lack of free time to attend the classes
  • location of the training venue
  • lack of childcare during the classes
  • lack of support and encouragement at work
  • lack of external support and encouragement at home
  • lack of effective personal learning strategies
  • fear and embarrassment to interact in English

Find out more about this research in the full report: Migrants in low-paid, low-skilled jobs: barriers and solutions to learning English in London.

Access to English language learning: for job seekers

We teamed up with Jobcentre Plus and several organisations who teach English (funded by the Skills Funding Agency) to talk about how we could improve access to English language training for job seekers.

Together we held two workshops called ‘ESOL works: helping people into jobs’:

ESOL stands for 'English for speakers of other languages'.