News story

New £6 million competition fund for English language learning

Communities Secretary announces a new competition to enable those individuals with low levels of spoken English to fulfil their potential.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Group of people talking

In a speech hosted by British Future and the Policy Exchange, setting out the government’s continued commitment to promoting integration, the Secretary of State expressed how learning English should be a priority because too many people are closed off from, and unable to participate in, their communities because of a lack of literacy.

In the past there has been the tendency to pay for interpreters, or translate documents into foreign languages, for those with no or extremely poor language skills. This undermines community integration and encourages segregation. Today, in 5% of households no one speaks English as their main language.

The government is therefore launching a new competition to back innovative and creative ways of delivering community-based English language programmes that will help to integrate participants into their local communities and also offer financial benefits.

While English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) courses provide an excellent service and help a lot of people, the nature of many English language courses means that a significant proportion of non-English speaking residents are not accessing this tuition, even when they are eligible for a fee reduction.

Often these courses are not suited to their needs. They may be held in large further education colleges without childcare facilities and too far from home, which can create an intimidating and impractical learning environment.

The government wants to support those missing out by uncovering new ways to teach basic conversational English to people in areas facing significant language barriers and integration challenges. This can increase the opportunity for people to take part in their communities, mix with neighbours from different backgrounds and help move them towards employment.

Community groups, charitable organisations and businesses are invited to enter the competition and say how they would go about providing English language programmes that will reach those groups and teach not only English skills, but give learners the confidence to aspire to their full potential in British society. Ideas on how these programmes could be sustained over the longer term to help more people who need this support are also being sought.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:

Learning English is a passport to prosperity, Britain misses out and our country is poorer if people can’t speak our language. Improved English language skills can allow people to interact with their local communities, make friends, gain employment and increase their self-confidence.

This competition will allow local communities to tailor language services to suit the needs of their area and give people the power to improve their circumstances and climb the social ladder.

We don’t want people to cease being proud of their roots or lose touch with their culture, but learning English should take priority.

Further information

Details of the competition are available in the Community-based English language prospectus.

The competition will take the form of a 2 stage process. In the first stage entrants will be asked to submit an expression of interest setting out in brief terms their ideas as to how they would implement their solutions of how to provide English language support to:

  • reach those groups with the lowest levels of English language skills and in particular women within these communities
  • work in those areas of England with high demand for this type of English language support
  • design a project which can be sustained past the point when government funding is available and which has the potential to be scaled up for implementation across a wider geographical area

The competition is targeted at those most in need who may not have accessed English language tuition in the past. We want projects to reach those:

  • with no, or a very basic command of, English
  • not eligible for mainstream ESOL support, as delivered via the Skills Funding Agency (therefore not in employment or actively seeking employment)
  • resident in areas with high levels of need for English language provision
  • aged 19 and above

A second prospectus will be published in early 2013 for stage 2.

We envisage that up to 4 successful bids will receive a share of up to £6 million of funding to help turn their ideas into reality.

The Secretary of State’s speech was hosted by British Future and the Policy Exchange.

In the 2011 census data, 5% of households do not contain an adult with English as a main language.

Published 15 January 2013