ESOL Evidence

We work with academic and practitioner partners to conduct robust research, supporting evidence-based policy and practice.

ESOL learners

Language is a key. If you can speak in one language, you have just one key. If you can more than one language, you have several keys to open the good ways in your life.

It will help me to get job…I can be a [teacher's] assistant, I can work in children's centre, I can work in the hospital, because I know good English now.

The context

  • In England and Wales, 5.1 million people speak English as a second or additional language (ESL).
  • Roughly one in five of these ESL speakers - more than one third of whom are UK citizens - report not speaking English "well" or "at all".
  • ESL speakers face a range of language barriers, to accessing their rights and entitlements, and to achieving their aspirations.
  • Demand for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) provision is rising. The number of ESOL learners jumped by 17% from 2021-22.
  • Yet this is against a backdrop of decimated funding, with the Adult Education Budget (AEB) declining by 56% in real terms between 2009/10 and 2016/17.
  • Learners also face an ESOL “postcode lottery. For learners in some areas, suitable or sufficient ESOL provision is often out of reach. 

Diana Sutton


For many speakers of ESL, effective language support…is lifechanging – the key to unlocking education, employment, and social integration. But there’s not enough of it and it isn’t always easy to access. We are calling for changes to remove the barriers to access and provide a curriculum that is fit for purpose. Our evidence-based recommendations could make a world of difference to the learning and lives of ESL speakers, unlocking skills and experience for the benefit of the whole of the UK.

Research feed

Education and Employment Outcomes of Young People Who Use English as a Second or Additional Language

Latest updates

Find out more about our review of the ESOL qualifications and curriculum, which provides evidence-informed recommendations to improve ESOL standards, qualifications, and methodology.

Our interactive story on six learners who have overcome obstacles to learn English through ESOL classes and reaped the benefits of the skills it provides.

In this clip we provide an overview of the current challenges around ESOL provision, and we speak to experts and students about their key asks for an incoming government.

The Foundation’s Director, Diana Sutton, spoke to Dr Philida Schellekens to explore how ESOL could better meet the needs of learners.