The Bell Foundation, finalist in the prestigious ELTons Award for the second year in a row

The ‘Improving Language, Improving Lives: Resources for ESOL Tutors’ who work in prisons, produced in partnership with the Learning and Work Institute and De Montfort University, was a finalist in the prestigious British Council’s ELTons Awards 2019 Local Innovation category.

The Bell Foundation is delighted to announce that the ‘Improving Language, Improving Lives: Resources for ESOL Tutors’ who work in prisons, produced in partnership with the Learning and Work Institute and De Montfort University, was a finalist in the prestigious British Council’s ELTons Awards 2019 Local Innovation category at a ceremony in London on Monday 10 June 2019.

The resource pack, the first publicly available resource of its kind, was tried and tested, designed and developed, with prison environments in mind. The resources, for use by English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teachers, enable learners in prison to acquire knowledge which is both useful and relevant to their lives whilst also learning English. The discussions they have in class, as well as the vocabulary they learn, are often immediately relevant to their day to day situations as well as preparing the learners for life after release. The resources cover topics such as health, civic issues, and finance.

This innovative pack was created to solve the problem that there were no resources developed specifically for ESOL tutors teaching in prisons. Previously tutors had to adapt mainstream ESOL and English as a Foreign Language material which was developed for a different context and environment. As mainstream classrooms and resources incorporate more digital technologies, it is harder for teachers who do not have access to these technologies, such as those in prisons, to use them. The Resources for ESOL Tutors are paper based and contain 18 hours of activities, suggestions, resources and lessons to teach English by focusing on topics which are relevant to life inside and outside prison.

As a result of this resource learners say that they feel more confident speaking English and are more motivated to engage with lessons because they can immediately start applying their learning outside the classroom. An ESOL tutor at HMP Rye Hill confirmed “I will definitely use these with my learners. I like the fact that they are suitable for Entry 1 to Entry 3 and especially that they give direction on how to use them.”

Diana Sutton, Director of The Bell Foundation, said “For The Bell Foundation this is a particular honour as it is the second year that a resource has been a finalist, with the EAL Assessment Framework winning the category in 2018. The award is a recognition of the fact that the Foundation is continuing the legacy of its Founder, Frank Bell, to improve the lives of ESOL learners. Frank had been a prisoner in the Second World War in Java. Prisoners in these camps were forbidden to teach, learn, compile or possess notes on any subject or meet in groups for discussion. Rather than accept these desperate conditions Frank set up an 'Undercover University'. Vocabulary, grammar exercises and multilingual dictionaries were written on every scrap of paper that could be found, from the backs of envelopes and soap wrappers to government forms and tobacco wrapping paper. In the same way that Frank Bell’s situation required an innovative solution, the modern-day resource pack needed to be tailored to the environment and to support differentiated learning, it needed to be of interest within prisons as well as of benefit to learners when progressing into further education, work and resettlement in the community. Being a finalist for this award recognises that this goal has been achieved and as a result we hope that more ESOL tutors will download the free pack.”

Notes to Editors

  • As part of the scoping for the project the research team found that there was no consistent approach to ESOL screening in secure setting and there was little or no information available on the nature and scale of ESOL needs in prison. As a result it was hard to develop and plan provision for this group¹. In addition, national data shows that a higher than average proportion of individuals in prison have relatively low literacy and numeracy skills, compared to the general population. 85% of adults in the general population have literacy skills at Level 1 or Level 2 whereas in prison this is only 45.8%². But there is no equivalent data on those individuals in prison who have limited proficiency in or no English.
    ¹ Carroll, Hurry and Wilson (2015) content/uploads/2017/05/A_Prison_within_a_Prison.pdf
    ² Source: SFA (2015) OLASS English and Maths Assessment: Participation 2014/15. Data for the general adult population taken from the 2011 Skills for Life Survey
  • The Bell Foundation aims to overcome exclusion through language education by working with partners on innovation, research, training and practical interventions and the ESOL Tutor Resource Pack is a perfect example of the outcome of this partnership approach. The Criminal Justice Programme aims to break down the language barrier to accessing justice and rehabilitation for individuals in contact with the criminal justice system for whom English is an Additional Language.
  • For more information on the ESOL Tutor Resource Pack and to download it for free please visit
  • Learning and Work Institute is an independent research, policy and development organisation dedicated to lifelong learning, full employment and inclusion.
  • De Montfort University leads the way in developing the public good agenda in UK higher education and was named the Sunday Times University of the Year for Social Inclusion. It is home to the pioneering international experience programme #DMUglobal which offers students the chance to enrich their studies overseas. It has embedded the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals across its curriculum and was the first UK university to be chosen as a hub for Sustainable Goal 16 - peace, justice and strong institutions.
  • Media enquiries regarding this announcement should be directed to Julia Shervington, Communications Manager,  The Bell Foundation, or 01223 275503.