19 Apr 2021

ESOL learners & functional skills English


This research report from NATECLA finds that ESOL learners need comprehensive language development support, but most functional skills English courses are not designed to provide this. 

This study was carried out for the Education and Training Foundation by the National Association for Teaching English and Community Languages to Adults in early 2021, to investigate the extent to which Functional Skills English (FSE) qualifications are used with learners with ESOL needs and to explore the related issues. 

Key recommendations

  • Data on learners with ESOL needs should be collected in the Individualised Learner Record so that government and providers can improve planning and monitor provision for this group of learners.
  • There should be greater understanding amongst policy makers and providers of the time needed for learning a new language and the specialist teaching required for effective language development for ESOL learners, so that this can be recognised in curriculum planning and funding policy. 
  • All English and ESOL courses and qualifications should be fully funded, as this would avoid the current distortion in course choices for reasons of cost. This would also improve the status of ESOL qualifications.
  • ESOL qualifications should be retained at Levels 1 and 2, as they are the only qualifications that are designed for the learning needs of ESOL learners.
  • ESOL should be available at all levels for all who need it, including in prisons, and an ESOL strategy for England would support this.
  • Providers should recognise the achievement involved in ESOL qualifications and accept them alongside FSE for access to other courses.
  • A range of professional development is needed for practitioners and managers, including in prison education, such as supporting ESOL learners with vocabulary and grammar in FSE classes, and raising managers’ awareness of the demands of learning a new language.

Read the report in full here


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