NATECLA statement on the campaign against the Family Immigration Rule changes
NATECLA is the professional association for teaching ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) and Community languages to adults and it represents the views and interests of ESOL professionals and ESOL learners throughout the UK.
We are very concerned about certain recent immigration changes including the new maintenance threshold and an extension of the probationary period. We are particularly concerned about the revised language requirements which will mean from October 2013 all applicants for settlement will need to pass the Life in the UK test as well as a Speaking and Listening qualification at intermediate level (B1 or ESOL Entry 3). The current requirements allow the applicant to choose to either take the ‘Life in the UK Test’ or follow an ‘ESOL with Citizenship materials’ course at Entry level and pass an ESOL Speaking and Listening qualification at a lower or elementary level (Entry level 1, 2 or 3).
Changing the language requirements for settlement is unnecessary and divisive
Many people with English language skills below intermediate level (B1 or ESOL Entry 3) are already successfully living in the UK, working and contributing to the economy and society. Raising the level will only increase barriers to integration. The current requirement of an ESOL course with Citizenship materials, plus progression from one level to another and a valid ESOL Skills for Life qualification is well established and sufficiently rigorous. Its strength lies in the focus on Speaking and Listening and the opportunity to contextualise citizenship in the essential development of general English skills. Feedback from learners on these courses is very positive as they gain confidence about living in a new country as well as improving their language skills.
NATECLA does not believe it necessary to test all skills as this could present barriers to integration. Requiring all applicants to take the ‘Life in the UK Test’ (for which you need reading skills at intermediate level or above) has implications for those who have no or very little literacy on arrival - in any language- and who may therefore experience difficulty in acquiring a sufficiently high level of literacy in English to pass the test. We believe speaking and listening skills should remain the priority.
The length of time it takes to learn a new language
The extended 5 year probationary period is unrealistic without an entitlement to learning and free ESOL provision (with childcare) from the time spouses/partners arrive in the UK. Currently, spouses in their first year of marriage are not eligible for funded provision which hinders those who wish to improve their English and integrate more quickly. There is ample evidence which shows that learning a new language is most effective in the early months/years of living in a new country when motivation is high and need is evident.
We believe it makes sense to enable and encourage all new spouses/partners to begin funded ESOL classes within their first year in the country, rather than imposing time delays which militate against effective practice. Evidence from European-funded projects clearly supports this argument: more effective learning and greater cost effectiveness, benefits for the individual and the wider community in terms of employment, reduced reliance on translation and interpreters, and reduced likelihood of being on benefit.
The impact of funding policy
The current uncertainties regarding funding policy cause huge difficulties, even with the recent relaxation in eligibility for fee remission: difficulties for colleges and providers in planning and resourcing courses and difficulties for spouses/partners trying to find and pay for ESOL classes, especially for those on low incomes.
English should be an entitlement for everyone
We would like to emphasise that ESOL provision should be an entitlement for all those who need it – a key to unlocking potential - rather than part of immigration policy. We believe that investment in ESOL provision is vital to enabling migrants to realise their potential and make their contribution to the economy, society and our culture.
NATECLA Management Council
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