'A guide: Teaching Esol in the FE sector'
October 19, 2007
As British society becomes more multicultural, the demand for English teachers has never been greater. Some migrants living in the UK are unable to speak English at all, or have a poor command of the language.
Of the plethora of acronyms used in conjunction with the teaching of English to non-native speakers, the term Esol (English to Speakers of Other Languages) has become synonymous with this type of teaching. The majority of Esol teaching tends to take place in further education (FE) colleges, as opposed to private language schools.
Over the last year, Cactus Tefl - an organisation that helps to promote the Tefl industry - has received regular requests for information regarding Esol and the qualifications required to teach it, so we've put together a few tips on working in this field.
Cambridge Esol and Trinity College are the providers of the two most internationally recognised qualifications within the industry. Up until now, they have offered modules outside the initial Cambridge English Language Teaching Award (Celta) or Trinity Cert Tesol course, which allow teachers to work in the FE sector. However, the implementation of the government's FE workforce reforms last month has brought about big changes.
The main result of the reforms is that it is now mandatory for all prospective FE teachers to obtain the Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS) award. This enables anyone to practice in FE and related Esol sectors, such as in adult and community learning.
Anyone who gains the Celta or Trinity Cert Tesol qualification can apply for the PTLLS award as well, although Trinity is awaiting endorsement by Standards Verification UK (SVUK).
In many ways, the Celta goes beyond the requirements of PTLLS, but to get that all-important extra award, prospective Celta teachers will have to complete some short additional tasks in an FE context, such as looking at the role of the teacher in the FE sector and the requirement to integrate functional skills into all teaching. The requirements for prospective Trinity Cert Tesol teachers are expected to be the same. Holders of the Celta qualification who apply to work in FE at a later stage will be expected to complete the tasks at the start of their employment.
The PTLLS award makes up the first six credits of a 120-credit qualification called the Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector (DTLLS), which teachers have five years to obtain.
Holders of a Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) or an education certificate only need to complete a Celta or Trinity Cert Tesol course, as well as the Esol-focused units of the DTLLS, to teach English in FE colleges.
Despite the huge increase in demand for Esol courses, government funding changes have led to cuts in courses, which means it could be hard to find permanent teaching contracts. Teachers now face hourly paid work in FE colleges, and they often may have to work odd hours at several different colleges to make up a full timetable. Rates of pay tend to be in the region of £20 per hour.
To find work, new teachers should leave their CVs at colleges and keep an eye on the Talent website for jobs. Much of FE recruitment tends to come down to word of mouth, and to a certain extent, being in the right place at the right time. For this reason, some people choose to complete their Celta or Trinity Cert Tesol course at an FE college to keep an ear to the ground about work.
Given the relative patience and determination often required to find substantial work in this sector, it does not tend to be a field that people fall into. This could be a good thing as it means the majority of people who end up in this sphere genuinely want to be there, and to make a difference to people's lives. Esol teaching demands an awareness and sensitivity to certain cultural issues, in addition to the basic skills acquired through a teacher-training course. Some students may be asylum seekers recovering from deep trauma, and some students may have a very low level of literacy.
Whatever their circumstances, it is undeniable that for many, learning English is their key to finding decent work and having the option to integrate into their new community. For this reason, the students' motivation is likely to be high and the experience for teachers all the more rewarding.