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ESOL – English for Speakers of Other Languages.

Accessing ESOL classes is often a really important part of integration; building skills and feeling part of a community.

Access to classes in England is not possible in the first 6 months after arrival and funding cuts have affected ESOL classes and their availability. Often the cost of attending one class is equivalent to the  asylum support allowance for food, toiletries, shoes and clothes (less than £6 a day), making it a difficult choice between learning or eating.

There are many informal free ESOL classes across England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, trying to bridge this gap, enabling people to integrate and connecting people with people – and in so doing breaking down barriers and prejudices and building confidence and relationships. 

City of Sanctuary volunteers are delivering ESOL classes, one to one support and conversation clubs in different cities and towns.  The methods of doing this have had to be creative in the new Covid-19 world.  See this blog by an ESOL tutor who transferred her class online: 

Online Classes as a Remedy for Loneliness and Isolation during COVID-19 and also

A ‘safe space’ in ‘cyberspace’? Refugee students in synchronous online EAP classes.

Check out the network wide facilitated conversation, including, Presentation slides, notes and video recording. about online ESOL here. 

A new Toolkit on effective practice has been produced in early 2021 by Migration Yorkshire. It is aimed at both practitioners and managers and has some voluntary sector case studies.  

The Refugee Action campaign Let Refugees Learn calls for better provision of ESOL for refugees

ESOL Matters – a film to help promote the Let Refugees Learn campaign and to use in awareness-raising sessions

Action for ESOL is a campaign to protect ESOL provision (and has some great resources for ESOL classes on the UK political system)

ESOL for people seeking sanctuary

ESOL Teachers and Research Practitioners Jisc Email Discussion Group. Click the link to subscribe to this supportive group, many of whom teach refugees and share insights into good practice. 

Teacher Digital Toolkit is a platform for creating and administering a range of different teaching and testing assignments which cover the 4 skills of  in reading, writing, speaking and listening 

Coronavirus vocabulary – ABC education (Australia) have posted a list of vocabulary used on the Coronavirus pandemic which can be used to support English lessons. 

Resources for Volunteers, English Language Learners and Conversation Clubs – 2020 Range of free resources including videos, 15 units of lesson plans and guides for volunteer tutors from the Learning and Work Institute 

The Basics of Voluntary ESOL  – a guide from Birmingham CoS ESOL Forum by Steph Neville, St Chad’s Sanctuary ESOL coordinator

Stepping Stones – is a fully developed course from University of Manchester including materials and session plans for teachers (including volunteer teachers) to deliver basic English language provision to mums new to English, along with their babies, in settings such as children’s centres, schools, libraries, cultural and community centres​.

 Comprehensive Learning materials for ESOL from Excellence Gateway.  Includes Resources for refugee learners at beginner levels with low literacy. 

Materials for Teachers

The New Internationalist have some great resources for teaching English and for students based on their publications on the website Easier English Wiki which include quizzes, discussions, photo stories and more 

Good Things Foundation ‘English My Way’ resources – Free teaching resources for those who support adults with no or low levels of English

A Council of Europe Toolkit -The toolkit is designed to assist organisations, and especially volunteers, providing language support for adult refugees.

#refugeeswelcomeinparks resource ‘Let’s Talk About Parks – beautiful free photo cards to support ESOL conversations in any setting

Visual templates for engaging environmental discussions from Emily Bryson freelance ELT Materials Writer and Trainer. 

Learn English Free – a fabulous Facebook page to share with your learners with great photo cards covering a range of language issues in a visual way

TES -Free teaching materials for educators working with refugees

The British Council – Lesson plans and activities for English language teachers of adults, business English students and learners in tertiary education.

ESOL Resources –  UK website with flashcards, topical videos and classroom ideas. Suitable for beginners in the classroom or as a small group exercise.

Skills Workshop –  ICT, Literacy, Numeracy and ESOL resources for classroom use from pre-entry to Level 2. Free access.

Handwriting Worksheets – Enter your own script (student’s name, sentence) This programme produces customised sheets for handwriting practice.

English Tools – an online resource generator offering open tools, worksheets, and printable PDFs to help you customise learning.  

British slang– The Wikipedia guide – can be helpful as slang can be very confusing to new arrivals and is potentially a great subject for amusing lessons.  See this short video of a class learning the local lingo in Londonderry. Also from Refugee Action – The Survival Guide to Manchester slang ‘Ave a Word’.

Many words which we use in English are borrowed or loan words from many different languages.  See this comprehensive list of such words.

Other General Resources and Resources for Planning

The fully comprehensive Core Curriculum for English for Speakers of Other Languages, which can be used as a guide to structuring learning and as a resource of ideas for activities in the English classroom.

Family Learning in ESOL free website resources  Working with adults and children together is a well established model and may be appropriate in a Schools of Sanctuary or community or home context.  For more information on what Family Learning in ESOL is and a contact for support please click here.

BBC Learning English has wide variety of topical resources for both teachers and children 

Reflect for ESOL Resource Pack – from Skills for Life Network. An innovative approach to adult learning and social change in a set of materials intended for anyone teaching or working with refugees, asylum seekers, or long-term immigrant groups in the UK.

Facilitating Adult Learning A good summary of interactive learning methodology

Learning Unlimited – a range of relevant downloadable resources including Welcome to the UK project packs: Preparing for Life in the UK Test,   Befrienders Toolkit,   and other ESOL materials. Some of these include authorable sections for easy adaptation.

Life in the UK – Test Preparation and Practice  This is a free website to practice and help migrants pass the test needed for British citizenship.  The test is one of the requirements to become permanent residents or to apply for citizenship. Please be sensitive that the test and the Handbook is not an accurate reflection of British history

IELTS Official YouTube channel. Videos, discussion for those preparing for the IELTS exams.

Trinity College Information on the GESE Grade 5 exam: Required for Indefinite Leave to Remain (to settle) or British Citizenship.  Candidates must pass a Secure English Language Test (SELT) in at least CEFR level B1 in Speaking and Listening.

Zoom guides Guides to Zoom in various languages 

Are you Eligible for ESOL? – Thanks to Wolverhampton City of Sanctuary

Refunet provides access to online volunteer teachers if you want to learn English or get help with schoolwork.

ESOL Courses; Free English Lessons online

The EAP Foundation has free resources to help you with English for academic purposes.

King’s College London offer free online English courses for different levels: ElementaryPre-intermediate, or English for Healthcare.

A list of links from East Midlands Strategic Migration Partnership of Home Study Resources. 

Online learning resources for unaccompanied children seeking asylum – Big Leaf Foundation have launched a new project ‘Keep Talking’ to respond to the needs of young people during this time of isolation by putting together a collection of online activities and challenges to help improve English, be creative, stay connected and ask questions.

A list of IT resources and mobile apps for students learning English 

OLS is a free online language learning platform for refugees and newly arrived migrants.

The British Council – ESOL Nexus for learners and also their YouTube videos 

English My Way  – Teaching resources for real beginners, especially those with little or no writing experience.

Really English – an app for refugees / on line learning resources  from RefuAid Language Gateway

Dave’s ESL Cafe –  – aimed at higher level students (above Entry 3) – includes grammar, pronunciation, slang and idioms. Pages for teachers and students.

Quizlet: Online study platform

ESOL Stepping Stones – English Language Teaching for non-English speaking mothers


NATECLA (National Association for Teaching English and Other Community Languages to Adults) is the national forum and professional organisation for ESOL teachers. With regional and country branches (eg NATECLA  Scotland) –  For sharing information and good practice,  low cost, high quality training events, conferences,  and campaigns to protect ESOL.

Xenia brings migrant, refugee, asylum-seeking and British women together to connect, share and learn together through conversation 

Future Learn provide Free online course about teaching English online 

English for Action – have a unique pedagogy delivering accessible community ESOL blending participatory education and community organising techniques. They offer bespoke training. 

Skills for Life Network  – Information resource for Skills for Life, Functional Skills, English, maths, ICT, ESOL, and Employability Skills. 

Learning and Work –  Resources to support the development of local ESOL partnerships 


We are inspired by Fáilte Isteach – an organic network in Ireland –  welcoming migrants through conversational  English. See also their Facebook page here.

The FAN model may be useful for new groups 

Heart and Parcel Organisation provide ESOL, conversation and cooking – building empowered communities. 

Doncaster Conversation Club

Leeds STAR Conversation Class

Sheffield Conversation Club

The Birmingham ESOL Network brings together voluntary providers of English classes, conversation groups, etc for refugees and asylum seekers across the city. Anyone is welcome to join the mailing list which is used to share ideas and resources, to communicate about relevant events, and to be a space for network building to be used in whatever ways to support and encourage those offering voluntary ESOL. To subscribe click here.
Somerset Diverse Communities  support community groups and English language learning in Somerset