Call for staff working in prisons to trial free ESOL Screening Tool

The Bell Foundation is looking for volunteers to trial an ESOL Screening Tool in prisons, which has been designed to identify whether individuals who speak English as a second or additional language (ESL) would benefit from attending ESOL classes.

The Bell Foundation is seeking volunteers to trial the Foundation’s ESOL Screening Tool in prisons and provide feedback. In return volunteers will receive a complimentary place¹ on the Foundation’s training course Communicating with Service Users who use ESL 

The ESOL Screening Tool has been designed to be used as part of the prisoner induction process to identify whether individuals who speak English as a second or additional language (ESL) would benefit from attending ESOL classes. English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes are designed to help learners to develop English skills and build confidence in using English in everyday life, education and employment. 

Why is this tool important?

Identifying priority needs is fundamental to the induction process in prisons. However, there is often no standardised system in place for identifying language needs, and staff on reception or carrying out an induction may not feel they possess the skills to identify ESOL needs.  

The Foundation’s simple Screening Tool, which takes less than 15 minutes to administer, is designed to be used by non-specialist staff to establish whether a prisoner whose first language is not English would benefit from extra support with communication on the wings, or from being referred to an ESOL specialist. The Foundation hopes that introducing this easy-to-use tool will allow establishments to better identify and support individuals with varying levels of ESOL needs.  

How can prison staff help?  

To inform development of the ESOL Screening Tool the Foundation is keen to hear from prisons in England that would be interested in trialling the tool over a period of 3-6 months, and able to provide feedback. The tool consists of the following components:  

  • The ESOL Screening Tool: questions to ask a prisoner who speaks English as a second or additional language. 
  • The ESOL Screening Tool Record Form: a sheet to record a prisoner's answers and determine whether they need to be referred to an ESOL specialist for a full assessment.  
  • The ESOL Screening Tool Guidance: information about the tool, including what it is and how to use it effectively.  

The Foundation would also be interested in hearing feedback from prisons that are already actively using the tool as part of their induction process.  

How to take part

If you work in a prison in England with high numbers of prisoners who speak English as a second or additional language (ESL) please get in touch by emailing In the email, please provide the following details: name, role, prison name, location, approximate number of prisoners who speak ESL.  

¹ Please note: Complementary places are limited to the first 20 eligible volunteers to contact The Bell Foundation.