I called LeedsCityCollege today to enquire about an EaH student’s application. It was quite illuminating! They have merged their ESOL application process across the whole college. This is a good thing and will save a lot of multiple applications and student confusion. However, this process seemed to be being managed by one (rather stressed) administrator. Also, there were 3000 applications in. This did not include students returning from last year. Some of these will be duplicates or people who no longer need ESOL, but this is still an enormous number.
No matter how much the government cuts ESOL, the need just increases every year. Sadly, my next thought was this – I wonder how many of these will come along to their initial interview and find out that they can’t afford the fees? This year ESOL is free for people on ‘active benefits’ (Job Seekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance) only. Firstly this definition is appalling, as if people on other benefits are doing nothing all day rather than looking after children and elderly relatives, struggling in poverty, suffering complex health problems etc. Secondly, yet again the amount of needy, vulnerable people turned away by college ESOL departments will increase this year.