English Language Teaching: Refugees

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:26 pm on 24th October 2017.

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Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner 5:26 pm, 24th October 2017

We have had a good debate. I thank all colleagues for contributing—particularly Alison Thewliss. I liked her point that people of different nationalities become friends for life at these classes. That is life-changing for them.

I also thank Paul Blomfield for highlighting the importance of the settled community being able to communicate with the incoming community, so that they can live and work among them, and that that is a two-way process. Stuart C. McDonald—I probably need elocution lessons to pronounce his constituency right—gave inspiring examples of people who come to Scotland being embraced by communities.

We want to make sure that rhetoric matches reality. I, for one, am really keen to reach out to the Muslim community in this country and find what will work for them. We need to work together to reach those in the community who cannot speak English; there is no desire to stigmatise but to integrate and be helpful. We need to listen carefully to what will work.

The Minister made the important point that it is not only about the money but about how we spend it. I am very receptive to that. We need to look at best practice where it exists—he has a great heritage in local Government—and we can point to local authorities that were cited earlier that are doing a good job. My local authority is in a dispersal area for asylum seekers. I will never forget the transformation of an Afghan child seeking refuge in this country who went on to become the BBC national children’s story-teller of the year. That is just one highlight of the amazing contribution that migrants make to our country.

I will end on a sobering note. Those of us who are in this room have a big job to do. The social media comments my right hon. Friend Nicky Morgan and I received on an article released today that we co-signed are salutary reading. I will read one out to impress upon the Minister and the Government how much work has still to be done:

“Taxpayers money should not be used to help immigrants speak English. If they cant or wont learn English, how/why are they here?”

That tells me and every person in this room who supports the consensus on the need to facilitate learning English that many of our countrymen and women do not understand the positive contribution that migrants make to this country, or that refugees come here to be safe. There are countries that have signed up to international treaties to provide safe haven to people coming from unsafe countries, and learning English is a part of that.

The Minister is right. However, I ask him to take away this message and to make the case for the benefits of migration, what it brings to our economy and society and why learning English is such an integral part of making that a success.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House
has considered English language teaching for refugees.

Sitting adjourned.