In this submission on February 2021, The Bell Foundation elaborated on which features of ESOL qualifications are most effective in supporting students to progress to further learning or into employment, and the need and role of ESOL qualifications at levels 1 and 2 to this end.
We recommended that the Department of Education:
- Establishes the optimal measure for collecting data on ESOL qualification needs and proficiency in young people and adults.
- Considers funding options for ESOL learners beyond the age of 19 to be based on sufficient time and intensity of study to learn ESOL to the required proficiency to progress to further learning or employment.
- Considers ESOL as part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee and ensure funding models are the same for ESOL as for other level 1 and 2 qualifications.
- Reviews the core curriculum for ESOL to improve on the linguistic and pedagogical principles which underpin it. The forthcoming ESOL Strategy is the ideal place for this to be set out.
- Pilots ESOL transition programmes which are integrated with other transition programmes, such as employability and personal development.
- Considers funding models for ESOL transition programmes which are commensurate to the volume of study required for ESOL learners to achieve the language proficiency needed to progress to level 3 qualifications.
- Considers funding options which allow providers to offer free ESOL to all learners, including levels 1 and 2 with proper advice and guidance to learners on the need for and benefits of higher-level language skills.
- Ensures that funding models mean colleges are not disincentivised from offering ESOL provision, over free and affordable Functional Skills English.
- Commissions research into proficiency and the ESOL levels, linked to the length of time of progression of ESOL learners aged 16 to 19 in further education to acquire the required proficiency in English for progression
in education and for meaningful employment.
- Commissions the development of an evidence-informed and robust assessment framework for proficiency in English, for use across ESOL provision nationwide. The Bell Foundation could work with an academic team
to support the Department in developing this tool.
- Reviews ESOL teacher qualifications to ensure they meet the demands of teaching ESOL and they are equipped in assessing ESOL needs ensuring that ESOL learners can progress onto further relevant ESOL qualifications, higher education and employment.
- Develops with partners the promotion of teaching of ESOL qualifications to increase the number of qualified ESOL teachers to meet needs.