Cameron: “Let them learn English”


Chris Stevenson


Yesterday David Cameron attacked immigrants into Britain for failing to learn English:

“When there have been significant numbers of new people arriving in neighbourhoods … perhaps not able to speak the same language as those living there … on occasions not really wanting or even willing to integrate … that has created a kind of discomfort and disjointedness in some neighbourhoods.”

The solution to this dilemma is to teach English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). Provision for ESOL has actually been available in some form since the 1960s – until now. ESOL teaching has faced cuts in government funding of 32 per cent over the last two years.

Under this government the major means for new immigrants to learn English so they can find employment and ‘integrate’ into society is now further under threat, as those on ‘inactive’ benefits, such as child tax credits and housing benefit will in future have to pay at least half their course fees, which could be up to £1,200.

The Prime Minister made similar remarks when answering a Parliamentary question in early February this year, saying that more needs to be done to ensure people who come to Britain learn English. How Mr Cameron expects to achieve this, while cutting the major element that allows this happen is unclear.

The changes to ESOL will affect up to 38,000 people in London alone, the majority of them women and mothers. As a previous article on ELL has pointed out, there is much fear about what this will mean.

Yesterday’s speech is ill-advised considering the attention it will draw to this deficiency in policy. After climb downs over school sport funding, and more recently the NHS, the government should look again at ESOL policy if this is the line the PM wants to tread.

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