£20m for English language classes in the UK is great, isn’t it?


Well, yes and no. While it’s very reassuring to hear that funding for English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) is being considered, there are some major caveats in the PM’s proposals. First and foremost, the Tories appear to be making a very pointed political statement with this offering. The funding is directed to a very specific demographic, which excludes the many learners of English that are currently in the UK who happen to be male, non-muslim or both. This also increases pressure on Muslim females in the UK who may have their right to remain in the country curtailed if the do not meet the prescribed standards within two years.
The rationale? To aid integration.  While on the surface, language is undoubtedly the key to integration in a host country, it is but one of a great many factors that people face in integrating into a new society. The pledge offered by Mr. Cameron is to avoid people being radicalised, but the most headline grabbing story on the subject last year was about three young women who left the UK to join ISIS in Syria. The reports indicted that these women were raised and educated in the UK and spoke English just fine.
The offer seems even less appealing when the £45m cuts to ESOL provision that were made just six months ago.
Are we really looking at support for language learning or a damage limitation exercise for ESOL which leaves its proposed beneficiaries, as well as many other learners who do not represent the demographic, under greater pressure?
For the views of prominent Muslim women in the UK, see this feature on BBC online.