UK: Immigrant Lessons Cost Taxpayers Over £300 Million

Asylum seekers and migrant workers arriving in Scotland will be among those to benefit from an extra £9m being pumped into English language

The Scottish education and lifelong learning secretary, Fiona Hyslop, said today the extra money would be used over the next three years to create up to 7,000 more places on

The move is part of the parliament’s strategy for Esol (English for Speakers of Other Languages), published last year, to improve the quality and quantity of provision. As well as extra funding, a national Esol panel has been created to monitor the standard of courses and coordinate the strategy across all “sectors, regions and interests”.

The announcement comes just weeks after Westminster sought to ease tensions between ministers and the Esol community over plans to redirect funding for English classes away from asylum seekers and on to immigrants planning to settle in Britain.In 2005-06, more than 19,000 people attended publicly funded Esol classes in Scotland, up from 14,500 in 2003. Colleges and community groups who offer classes are struggling to meet demand and waiting lists for courses are common across the country.

In England, the cost of funding Esol courses has trebled over the last five years to £300m a year, putting pressure on education budgets and resulting in the government capping funding for asylum seekers in September last year, a move condemned by teachers, lecturers and students.

Last month, the skills secretary, John Denham, confirmed that money for classes would be directed to the area of greatest need, but announced a public consultation on Esol policy. Denham said he wanted local authorities to play a greater role in funding decisions to meet community needs.

Business is also being called on to up their efforts in funding classes for migrant workers.