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Section 3. Responding to the needs of learners and the community

ESOL learners are people who:

  • have come to live/work/settle in Britain from another country
  • do not speak English as their main language
  • need to develop their skills in speaking, listening, reading and writing in English in order to: cope with everyday life; help their families; work or look for employment; become part of their community and integrate into British life and culture.

In contrast, English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners come temporarily to the UK to learn English for a limited time and then return to their own country.

ESOL learners may:

  • have very varied language and cultural backgrounds
  • be a refugee or asylum seeker
  • be newly arrived in this county or have lived here for a number of years
  • have very high qualifications from their country and a good education, or little or no education
  • be literate, semi-literate or non-literate in their main language
  • be learning in different contexts and settings: in the workplace, alongside other training, as a parent, or in an offender  setting
  • display a ‘spiky profile’, i.e. they are at a different level in each of the four skills of speaking, listening, reading or writing.

Assessing individual learners' need

The Assessment Starter Kit provides information, resources and guidance about assessment at each stage of the learning journey.

Examples of provider developed materials

5E Ltd
An initial assessment tool to assess ESOL learners at Entry levels 1 to 3 was developed and trialled. They found the tool allowed accurate placement of learners in the appropriate class. Tutors found the tool ‘user friendly and very effective in getting the outcome’ and learners responded positively.


Pitman Training
This contextualised Skills Check has been developed for use at induction for NVQ Health and Social Care learners. The results of the skills check will be used to embed appropriate support within their NVQ training.

Provision to meet individual and community needs

'The New Approach to ESOL' highlights five national priorities;

Those who:

  • have poor or no English language skills
  • are isolated/excluded from communities outside their own
  • are currently not accessing provision or are under-represented or not progressing
  • are on the path to British citizenship
  • are refugees given protection by the UK government.

Local authorities can draw on these national priorities in identifying their own priority groups.

Is your provision planned to:

  • prioritise the groups outlined in the 'New Approach to ESOL'?
  • respond promptly  to requests for ESOL from individuals, community groups, employers, schools and parents’ groups?
  • offer provision to particular groups in local community venues, workplaces or wherever appropriate?

Working with learners in different contexts

Learners and where they learn is a wide ranging collection of information and resources relevant to working with different learner groups and settings.

These include:

I wanted to improve my English before studying Carpentry and Joinery at Leicester College. The 'Access programme' was amazing and I think any young person who wants to improve their English should do it.

Partnership with other providers, schools, job centres, social services, asylum seeker support groups and employers helps to ensure provision can meet demand.

Read how Leicester College has worked in partnership to develop a successful 14-19 Access Course to meet the needs of young ESOL learners.