Supporting ESOL Learners to Progress to Functional Skills


At the request of the Department for Education, L&W  undertook a small-scale, time-limited stakeholder consultation to provide an up-to-date picture on ESOL learners’ progression to Functional Skills English qualifications (FSE). Building on earlier research and stakeholder engagement, L&W conducted stakeholder and provider interviews, and online practitioner focus groups, in order to answer the following questions:

  • What curriculum delivery models are providers currently using in their ESOL / Functional Skills provision?
  • What are the features that providers believe to be effective in supporting learner achievement and progression?
  • What professional development opportunities are there to support ESOL practitioners who are delivering FS qualifications? Are there any gaps in the offer and what would help?

Providers use a range of  delivery models, commonly using ESOL qualifications at Entry Level, before learners move to Functional Skills, typically after achieving Entry Level 3.  The consultation found consensus around the features of effective practice in delivering ESOL and FS qualifications, namely:

  • ESOL learners benefit from being taught by ESOL specialists, whether they are aiming towards ESOL or FSE qualifications.
  • A recognition of the benefits to teaching ESOL learners at lower levels separately from other functional skills learners (e.g. first language speakers of English), to enable a focus on grammar, vocabulary, idiomatic language and fluency.

The report also identifies a need for greater professional learning and development support for ESOL practitioners, and teachers who work with ESOL learners in other contexts e.g. vocational and technical education.