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Charging fees for English courses will not help integration, says UCU

18 October 2006 | last updated: 15 December 2015

UCU is concerned by today's announcement from the Learning and Skills Council that many people requiring basic English courses, including many asylum-seekers, will be charged fees.

Currently, students who enrol on English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses are entitled to free tuition up to Level 2 (GCSE-equivalent). But the LSC has told colleges they must now charge ESOL students except those who are unemployed or who are receiving income-based benefits.

Asylum-seekers, who are waiting to hear if they have been granted refugee status, will also be charged for ESOL courses.
UCU calls for all ESOL courses, up to and including Level 1, to be free for all learners, regardless of their income.

The union also calls for asylum-seekers who wait more than six weeks to have their applications for right to remain to be processed to get free tuition on ESOL courses.

The union suggests stronger levers are put in place to require employers or agencies who take on workers without good English, to contribute to the costs of their ESOL tuition.

The union also wants to see funding increased for ESOL teacher training to cope with the increasing demand.

Paul Mackney, joint general secretary of UCU, said: 'It is impossible to see how making English language learning (through ESOL courses) more expensive assists the government's stated objective of promoting greater integration.'
'New workers arriving in Britain to fill our skill gaps should be helped with their language needs as swiftly as possible for everybody's benefit.

'Asylum seekers who are given refugee status and allowed to remain should also be helped into work and society.

'Employers and the agencies which bring in migrant workers should pay for the English courses of their staff, just as employers should contribute to other vital skills training.'

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