This is a review of NRDC research in ESOL from 2002 to 2006. It draws on the findings of 18 different research projects to provide insight into the ESOL provision, its learners and its teachers in that period. ESOL was part of Skills for Life from its launch in 2001 and benefited from equivalent investment and the development of curricula, assessment and professional practice, recognising ESOL, alongside numeracy and literacy, as a distinct area of teaching and learning. Consultation with ESOL practitioners identified a number of teaching and learning challenges:
- The extraordinary diversity of the backgrounds, previous education and current circumstances of learners in the same class.
- Learners’ strong motivation to learn English as a route to employment or further study.
- The fact that learners often have little access to interaction with English-speakers outside the classroom.
There was an ESOL focus in NRDC research on workforce basic skills, embedded learning, rural provision, adult learners’ lives, and teacher education. There were two large studies: the ESOL effective practice project (EEPP) and a set of case studies. NRDC also commissioned two reviews, one on pedagogy, the other on applied linguistics.
This review does not attempt to offer a total picture of ESOL in the period: for example NRDC did not carry out any large-scale surveys of ESOL learners. However, it does contribute to our understanding of ESOL provision, and its learners and teachers, in the first period of the Skills for Life Strategy.