Supporting English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)

ESOL learners at ISS Middlesex University

Government withdrawal of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) funding for people in work has made UNISON’s ability to organise workplace ESOL classes increasingly challenging.

The responsibility to meet the English language needs of workers rests with employers. Many employers are keen to offer ESOL for their staff but not to fund it.

Although UNISON would not wish to subsidise what employers have a duty to provide, we can still do much to support ESOL learners and ESOL learning in the workplace.

Ways UNISON can support workplace ESOL

UNISON is well placed to:

  • assess and raise awareness of the need and demand for workplace ESOL (see below)
  • facilitate opportunities for non-formal workplace ESOL learning

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  • negotiate and broker workplace ESOL learning opportunities with employers and providers

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  • support workers while they learn, then celebrate and share their success

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  • organise around ESOL to build workplace strength and power

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Making it happen at Middlesex University

See how Middlesex University UNISON branch worked with the employer, the commissioner, the regional office and the learning provider to implement ESOL lessons for outsourced cleaning staff.

Assessing the need and demand for ESOL learning

Workers may raise the need for ESOL learning with you, or you could introduce the idea through informal conversations.

If your conversations identify potential for workplace ESOL learning, you could follow up with a wider learning survey or listening event. You will then have contact details of potential learners and something to use in discussion with the employer.

UNISON’s Inclusive Learning Project has produced learning questionnaire postcards, or you could develop your own survey. Contact to request postcards.

Supporting ESOL learning in the workplace: a webcast

Click here to download this guidance in PDF format