English for Speakers of Other Languages ( ESOL)

ESOL stands for English for Speakers of Other Languages. It differs from straightforward adult English because it is specifically aimed at people who don’t have English as their first language, so they have different learning needs.

Those people with ESOL needs face additional barriers to getting on at work and integrating into their communities. Therefore, learning English in order to cope at work and in everyday life in the UK is important to those whose first language is not English. It is important that people in the workplace can communicate in spoken and written English.

Improving English for ESOL needs makes sense for a number of reasons:

  1. Many adults are very well qualified in their countries of origins – improving English unlocks priceless potential for individuals, workplaces and the economy
  2. Addressing ESOL helps social cohesion in the workplace and in communities
  3. There are serious Health and Safety issues if sections of the workplace do not have a good standard of spoken and written English, as well as good reading skills
  4. Addressing ESOL also improves Quality Assurance requirements

ESOL courses cover:

Judith Swift one of our URTU Learning Project Workers is a qualified ESOL Teacher, she is always happy to provide advice and support on ESOL including meeting up with ULR’s and learners, you will find her details under the Meet the Team page.

  • Speaking and listening,
  • Reading and writing,
  • Vocabulary,
  • Punctuation and grammar

Unlike the usual English and maths courses, ESOL learning is not free for people in work. This is current Government policy and means that ULRs and unions need to think of ways to get employer support or explore other ways to source ESOL learning.

ULRs are often necessary to help workmates to get their ESOL learning. This may include engaging the employer, local colleges and course providers.


Employer Support

It is worth the employers’ while to invest in ESOL learning to ensure that employees can fulfil their potential and benefit the business as well

unionlearn have some support materials and suggestions for ULRs.

unionlearn has produced a briefing paper for negotiators on bargaining for English for Speakers of Other Languages explaining why ESOL is a bargaining issue. The briefing includes a model text for a learning agreement. – See more at:

Online Learning

Flexible online learning may be an option for some, though not all, ESOL learners. As with all online learning opportunities it is really important that learners receive support as and when they may need it. The role of ULRs will be very important.

unionlearn has linked up with the British Council to help unions access some high quality online ESOL learning resources. The British Council is looking to work with unions to develop further their English for Work provision on their ESOL Nexus website which offers a free access to learning resources – See more on unionlearn’s website above or directly at

If you would like more information on ESOL, please contact your URTU project team.

The British Council has been working

Union learning representatives (ULRs) work with employers and workers so that both get the training and skills needed. In partnership with Unionlearn the British Council are developing a guide to supporting ESOL at work, for ULRs who are supporting employees whose first language is not English.

For further information and video clips from employers and employees please visit 

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