Love ESOL is our campaign to promote ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). We are calling for more funding from the government because we believe ESOL is a vital public service that benefits all of us, not only new arrivals. ESOL is crucial for healthy communities, a thriving economy and the well-being of people who are new to the UK.
Since 2017, we have been organising #LoveESOL events with the aim to engage with policy-makers. This is so ESOL students (and teachers, volunteers and supporters) can have a real say in how ESOL works in the capital. Over the years, hundreds of students have been involved in the campaign. We started as a big teach-out in the green space outside City Hall, which led to invitations to hold an event inside the building the following years and present our asks to the Mayor’s team, as well as meet with key members of staff. The event has historically coincided with the European Day of Languages (26th September), so it is also a celebration of multilingualism and the linguistic diversity we have in London.
We meet annually to look at ESOL provision in London and share our expertise with the GLA.
We are holding the Mayor and GLA accountable for ESOL policy because since the devolution of funding to the regional authorities (in the academic year 2019/20) they have the power to make improvements. However, we recognise that they don’t control the amount of funding they receive from Westminster and do not set the SFA’s eligibility rules.
Current #LoveESOL campaign asks are:
1. Better access to free ESOL classes for all,
regardless of childcare or work commitments, or immigration status. We want free ESOL provision, providing childcare and removing eligibility criteria.
Progress made: The GLA have increased the threshold for free classes for everyone earning less than the London Living Wage. It has been estimated that this increased the number of people eligible for free classes by 20,000 and put money back in to the pockets of low-paid migrant workers. From 2020 they have also expanded the eligibility criteria to access Adult Education Budget funding to include more asylum seekers and family members of EU and EEA nationals. In July 2022 the Mayor announced free courses for learners who earn below the London Living Wage/are unemployed, but do not or cannot claim state benefits, including people with no recourse to public funds (NRPF).
2. An ESOL for London website with a database of what’s on offer across London for students to identify a suitable class. With information on cost, childcare, location, day and time, levels and certificates. PLUS information about any immigration status restrictions.
Progress made: In April 2021, Mayor Sadiq Khan committed to providing a staffed updated website with information about ESOL classes in London. The GLA appointed an ESOL coordinator in 2018 and then expanded the post to two coordinators.In June 2022 the GLA updated their ESOL webpages to include a webpage with a provider map for London: https://www.london.gov.uk/publications/find-adult-learning-providers-near-me
This is fantastic progress, but the webpage still needs more work to make it comprehensive and accessible to ESOL learners. Learners suggestions for improvement are listed here: https://efalondon.wordpress.com/2022/07/19/loveesol-campaign-picnic-providing-an-end-of-year-report-for-the-mayor-of-london/
3. Solidarity for a bigger voice for ESOL to help restore funding and improve public understanding of ESOL students’ experiences and the importance
Progress made: The Deputy Mayor for Skills and the Deputy Mayor for Social Integration have attended the annual #LoveESOL events and directly engaged with ESOL students and learning. We were pleased to see ESOL explicitly mentioned in Sadiq Khan’s re-lection manifesto in 2020/21.
We have been documenting our campaign meetings. Click on the year to read about them.
For the 2019 General Election, we invited election candidates to sign up to our ESOL Pledge . It reads: “I pledge to ensure all migrants in my constituency can access ESOL classes through championing local and national solutions”
The following candidates signed up.
1. Bell Ribeiro-Addy (Labour, Streatham) – now MP
2. Marsha de Cordova (Labour, Battersea) – now MP
3. Sarah Lewis (Liberal Democrats, Vauxhall)