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ESOL Provision in the UK and Ireland: Challenges and Opportunities


Edited By Freda Mishan

Situated within the context of unprecedented levels of inward migration to the UK and Ireland bringing with it all the complexities of integration, this volume focuses on a key aspect of this - language provision. Through the voices of stakeholders in the field of teaching English to speakers of other languages (ESOL), this volume critically examines models of language provision and integration, the relationship between language and identity, developing ESOL practices and ESOL policy. A distinctive feature is the diversity of contributions, ranging from research studies to vignettes presenting living portraits of ESOL practice on the ground. The volume fills an urgent gap in this area, offering a snapshot of the ‘state of the art’ of ESOL in the UK and Ireland and projections of how the needs of new migrants can be addressed into the future.

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7 ESOL, emancipation and ‘comfort radicalism’: Perceptions of ESOL practitioners in the Scottish further education sector (Steve Brown)


Steve Brown

7 ESOL, emancipation and ‘comfort radicalism’: Perceptions of ESOL practitioners in the Scottish further education sector


Scotland was the first UK nation to develop a national strategy for delivering English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) (Scottish Executive 2007, Scottish Government 2015). This strategy’s vision and objectives contain language that implies an emancipatory agenda and a call for ESOL practitioners to draw on principles of Critical Pedagogy (Giroux 2011). However, capacities for practitioners to implement such an approach are undermined by a number of factors, particularly in the Further Education (FE) sector, where the majority of Scottish ESOL provision takes place (Brown 2017). This chapter describes a study that sought to explore college ESOL practitioners’ perceptions of ESOL. Participants appeared to value individual learner empowerment over social emancipation, but the study also suggested that practitioners’ capacities to empower learners are themselves undermined by contextual limitations. The implication of these findings is that an ostensibly emancipatory ESOL Strategy may not necessarily lead to emancipatory practice in ESOL.

It is perhaps self-evident that people living in predominantly English-speaking countries benefit from opportunities to improve their English. The wider, social impact of the provision of courses in English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) is also well-documented; Jane Ward claims that it not only ‘supports individuals to gain control over their lives, make informed choices, secure employment, communicate, access support and services and gain knowledge of their rights’ (Ward 2007: 53), but...

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