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Why ESOL Matters

At the recent ESOL Forum in Birmingham, we had the privilege of showing a video made by Hogar Salim on why ESOL matters.  Take a look at what some of the wonderful students of St Chad’s Sanctuary and one of the co-ordinators, Steph Neville, have to say about why ESOL is so important.

As Steph explains, refugees come with an amazing desire to learn and an amazing willingness to put themselves out there and have a go.  A desire to learn to communicate and a desire to get on in life.

Language skills constitute a major barrier to the integration of asylum seekers and refugees in Birmingham as elsewhere.  But to further add to this:

  • Funding for English language classes has been cut by 55% since 2009. And there is a chronic shortage of classes in Birmingham. 
  • Asylum seekers are not allowed to access state-funded ESOL classes for their first 6 months in the UK.
  • Upon receiving a positive decision from the Home Office, refugees commonly have to wait 6-12 months for English classes. 
  • Asylum seekers are not allowed to claim benefits or work in the UK.

Refugee Action conducted research as part of the Let Refugees Learn campaign   which highlighted some of the other barriers to participation as outlined below:


As part of the campaign, Refugee Action made five essential recommendations, which are detailed below.


We fully support these recommendations, and are currently working to increase the provision of voluntary ESOL classes in the city so that every asylum seeker that arrives can access good quality ESOL classes in walking distance of their home.  Steph Neville, of St Chad’s Sanctuary, has written a great article on voluntary ESOL and how to go about setting up classes in your area.  You can find it here.

At the recent ESOL Forum, we looked at lots of ways of moving forward to support this increase in provision of voluntary ESOL in the city.  We discussed lots of ideas such as:

  • Developing a pool of voluntary teachers that could potentially volunteer across projects
  • Sharing lesson plans and resources
  • Sharing exam entries
  • Transferring students between centres 

If you are interested in finding our more, please take a look at the Welcome Map or contact us at [email protected]