The demand for English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) courses has been very high with funding and enrolments across England tripling since 2001.
Detailed information on ESOL funding and enrolments is collected by the Learning and Skills Council (LSG) but this does not extend to waiting lists. However, some institutions, particularly in London, have suggested they have waiting lists of up to 24 months.
A number of ESOL funding measures were introduced from August 2007 to help vulnerable learners. The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has commissioned a report to look at the impact of these measures. The interim findings indicate a continuing high level of demand for ESOL and that the learner profile seems to be changing in some colleges, with more enrolments onto evening than daytime classes. A full report is planned for early spring.
The national comprehensive spending review (CSR) has fixed ESOL spending until 2010 and participation figures in London have been forecast to align with this. London Learning and Skills Council has negotiated an increase in the size of its employer responsive budget for 2008-09 due to the specific socio-economic needs of London and ESOL needs for the individual and employers will be addressed within this.
In addition, the London Learning and Skills Council is expanding the offer of ESOL Skills for Life to Entry Levels 1 and 2 within the train to gain service. The service will also be expanded to include the new ESOL for Work qualifications. This enables a greater flexibility for employers and individuals in accessing ESOL.