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|A review of research on ESOL for learners with learning difficulties and disabilities (Completed)|
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This review was undertaken as part of NRDC’s work in support of Skills for Life. It investigated the experiences of adult learners who have learning difficulties and/or disabilities and who also need English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) provision. A range of theoretical, practical and research materials were collected and reviewed and a practitioner seminar held. Only very limited research has previously been undertaken in this field.
Particular areas of concern were identified in the review: a lack of useful data on the target population; inadequate assessment procedures, problems with interagency working; unmet training needs of tutors working with ESOL students with learning difficulties and other disabilities; difficulties experienced by this group of students in accessing information on services and resources.
- Knowledge of the target population is impeded by the shortfall in research data available in the UK. Quantitative data is required to assess the numbers of people who need provision, while qualitative data would describe the nature and value of the educational experience that they receive
- Much of the UK based literature has focused on school-age children with reading difficulties, including dyslexia. The use of information that is child-focused is problematic when applied to the experience of adults. Further, targeted research is urgently needed.
- School-based literature has suggested that assessment of literacy and numeracy needs should be undertaken in the student’s native language. However, there is a shortage of language interpreters and qualified ESOL staff.
- Inter-agency working for the individuals concerned is frequently reactive rather than proactive, causing lengthy delays in service provision. The problem is particularly acute for young disabled immigrants in the 16–18 age range. Practitioners suggested that research and development of co-ordinated services in ESOL for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities should take place.
- There are tensions between the Skills for Life strategy and the Access for All curriculum. ESOL students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities may fall between gaps in provision. ESOL tutors may lack confidence teaching impaired students. Access for All tutors may lack skills necessary for teaching ESOL students with impairments. Research in this area should be a priority.
- Research is also needed into the barriers that disabled ESOL students face in accessing information about services and resources. ESOL students already have the difficulty of accessing information due to language and literacy barriers and this problem may be compounded for people with physical or sensory impairments, those with learning difficulties; or those with mental health difficulties.