ESOL teacher training can have a transformative impact on urban communities

By Caroline Fox, CEO of Twin Employment & Training


26 08 2022


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ESOL provision is an excellent example of how metro mayors can stamp their mark on adult education in a way that is as much inclusive as it is economically advantageous.  Prior to the relevant budget being devolved in 2019, Learning and Work Institute identified for Greater London that there was not just a pressing need to respond better to residents’ demand for ESOL learning but also more capacity and expertise in the delivery of ESOL provision.  Twin Employment & Training explain how they support the training of ESOL teachers funded by the GLA.

It was always going to be interesting to see how the metro mayors would stamp their mark on the devolved allocations of the Adult Education Budget (AEB) in a way that would differentiate their programmes from the nationally run one.

In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan identified English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) as a major priority within the capital’s AEB offer.  Partly prompted by London’s willingness to contribute to the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme which ran from 2014 to 2020 and the fact over 50% of ESOL provision takes place in the capital, the GLA asked the Learning and Work Institute (L&W) to undertake a mapping exercise well in advance of the planned AEB devolution in 2019.

According to the L&W, over half of providers, rising to two thirds of colleges, reported that they struggled to meet community demand for ESOL.  As part of the response, the Institute recommended more capacity and expertise in the delivery of ESOL provision for learners with basic literacy needs.

Mapping ESOL provision in London

On building capacity, Twin Employment & Training is one of the providers supporting the GLA by delivering Level 3 ESOL and Literacy Training for teachers.  A key theme in the course design is progression, for example giving the teacher trainees the tools to see greater progress from their learners and an opportunity to enjoy progression themselves as an English language teacher such as securing a paid role and earning more as a qualified tutor.

Our trainees use the course to support their students to prepare for the national ESOL Skills for Life exams in Reading, Writing, and Listening and Speaking.  We have others who use it as a precursor to further teacher training qualifications including Level 4 Certificate in Education and Training, Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training, Cambridge (CELTA) and Trinity (Cert TESOL).

While an accredited Level 3 ESOL and Literacy Training qualification is the attainment outcome, the course has a functional rather than academic focus, with the overall aim being to support trainees to help learners in their own community.  This is important because 70% of the mostly female participants on our Greater London programme are from ethnically diverse backgrounds.

As an independent training provider, we endeavour to make the course schedule flexible, depending on the needs of the group.  But it will ultimately comprise 60 hours over 10 weeks (2 days a week intensive course) with 36 actual class hours and the rest are for participants to prepare, study and receive 5 hours of 1-to-1 coaching sessions.  Typically each class will consist of 6 to 10 students and new course start dates are available every month.

Of course, the learning must be interactive because Twin wants to inspire students to inspire others but there is no requirement to undertake any practical teaching.  The assessment comprises four units, 100% coursework, a guided research project and a short oral presentation.

Inevitably the pandemic has encouraged a switch to more online delivery via Microsoft Teams but this has not adversely affected the progress made by the students with 499 coaching sessions having taken place to date (72 ahead of target).  The programme supports the London Mayor’s fund priority groups; for example, 9% of the students are aged over 50 and 8% have a disability.  Overall, of the current 508 learners on programme, 498 (98%) have achieved a qualification.

These numbers sound impressive and are a great credit to Twin’s delivery team, but they really come alive when one reads some of the stories behind them.  Lakshmi, for example, was referred to us by GRoW (Get Ready for Work) and having gained no qualifications after secondary school, she was concerned about her level of English, both speaking and writing, because she had not had the opportunity to speak a great deal of English and had never studied in English before.

Faced with these challenges, Lakshmi initially felt that only achieving the first two units was realistic but she completed the full four units.  She started volunteering at a refuge centre and since May 2022 she has gained paid employment there running a basic conversation group.  Other goals successfully reached were to improve her own written and spoken English.  Completing her presentation confirmed her speaking confidence had improved considerably. She stated that she actually enjoyed presenting and felt really pleased with herself.  On completion, Lakshmi commented, “Now I am suggesting this course to everyone”.

Lakshmi’s story and those of many others on the course demonstrate why the elected mayors should have control over adult education because they know best what will make a difference to their communities while also improving employment outcomes.

Caroline Fox is CEO of Twin Employment & Training

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