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New funding rules hit English language schools

Nov 10th, 2010 | By | Category: Featured Article, Front Page Layout, News

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WELLINGTON’s private language schools are struggling to meet new rules designed to push English-learners through their courses in a shorter time.

Language schools say Government funding changes to the training opportunities programme introduced in August mean there is now too little time to get some students’ English to a standard needed for work.

esol headshotThe schools have only 26 weeks to get students ready for work, says Education Training Consultants (ETC) language school manager Marty Pilott (right).

If they do not, they may lose their funding for the next year.

“Up to now, courses have not been heavily restricted about how long people have been on them. Now we only have 26 weeks, how can we conduct a language course in that time?”

Pauline Barnes, Tertiary Education Commission director for private training establishments and community education, says there will be a transition period.

“In 2011, providers will receive all their funding, and it will not be dependent on their outcomes,” she says.

“But it will be expected that their programmes become more aligned to the new look one, ready for 2012.”

She says they are looking at calls to have a learning strategy for English language learners, separate to the training opportunities programme.

“We are having discussions around what the new programmes will look like, and until this process is complete we’re unable to comment on specifics.”

The ETC language school recently moved from Newtown to smaller premises in Willis St, and Mr Pilott says the latest policy change could cause closure altogether.

“Last year, we had 12 staff, and now we only have five. We ran at a loss, and if it continues like that, the boss won’t keep it going,” he says.

He believes a separate funding strategy should be introduced for English learners, to get them to a standard where they can enter the training opportunities programme.

“It can take up to three years to get learners’ English up to the standard before New Zealand employers consider taking them.”

Under the new rules ETC carefully pick students to ensure they are able to obtain the standard required to be ready for work, he says.

“We have to take learners at an intermediate level, and have no choice except to cherry-pick students, to ensure we get a successful outcome in obtaining a standard to be able to work.”

Other information

Migrants and refugees from non-English speaking countries arriving in Wellington can have free English courses from the Multi-cultural Services Centre.

They offer daily classes called MCLaSS at four levels of English, with applicants entering a course at any level, depending on their ability.

They are designed to last for 18 weeks, with learners attending three hours every day, with all four levels covered in two years.

MCLaSS manager Mary Collie-Holmes says learners sometimes take longer than two years to graduate.

“The students most likely to go onto to ETC (Education Training Consultants) are the ones who progress at a steady rate,” she says.

MCLaSS is funded by Adult and Community Education (ACE) funding.

TEC contracts MCLaSS to provide free adult English language literacy classes, assessments for Wellington and Porirua, and “mother tongue maintenance”.

Work and Income contracts MCLaSS to provide job brokering and career coaching, and English language assessment for the Hutt Valley.

Other free language courses are available from English Language Partners.

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is a Whitireia Journalism student, who enjoys crafting a good story.
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