On speaking terms: The need for a national strategy on ESOL

18 August 2014

England needs a National English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Strategy is the conclusion of a significant report by a major British Think Tank and sponsored by Cambridge Assessment and its exam board Cambridge Assessment English.

The report, by DEMOS, states that England needs an ESOL strategy that better fits the needs of migrants, whether that is measured in social or economic terms. The study shows that the English language is a critical skill that helps improve economic and social outcomes for migrants, and by extension, wider society.

The report highlights not only how other countries overcome language barriers for migrants, but the failures of successive governments; and that the current split of responsibilities for ESOL policy between multiple government departments, constraints on funding and a failure to construct policy around key educational principles, such as realistic levels of attainment and an understanding of migrant needs fails to provide both value for money for taxpayers or meet the aspirations of learners.

This report concludes with a set of imaginative initiatives to rectify the situation and provide positive outcomes for ESOL learners and taxpayers, while meeting higher standards of educational practice.

Dr Nick Saville, Director of Research and Validation at Cambridge English Language Assessment said: "You can’t just have a one-sized fits all approach to ESOL provision. We need a national strategy that incorporates realistic goals linked to levels everybody understands. It also needs to cover the varying needs of different groups of migrants whether they are coming to study, work or to join a family. We’re fortunate in this country to have excellent, specialised ESOL teachers, who really understand the needs of migrants. Their expertise will be key to developing an effective national strategy."