Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Education

Adult ESOL in Multilingual Britain

13 July 2012 - 13 July 2012
Building 11-14 Blenheim Terrace, Room 1.17

A BAAL/CUP Seminar at the School of Education, University of Leeds


The objective of the seminar is to bring together researchers, practitioners and policy-makers working in Adult ESOL in England, with the aim of encouraging and developing mutual understanding of perspectives on English Language Learning and Teaching for adult migrants in superdiverse multilingual contexts.

Linguistic, political and pedagogic contexts of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) are changing fast. Language and communication in urban Britain are increasingly suffused with the multilingualism associated with globalisation and superdiversity. At the scale of national policy, recent responses to superdiversity have been contentious: the imposition of language tests for migrants and successive cuts to the funding of Adult ESOL classes particularly so.

ESOL practitioners are faced with the twin challenges of gaining deeper understanding of language use in today’s Britain, at the same time as incorporating into their practice – or resisting – the latest policy moves. The time is therefore ripe for re-examining the relationship between ESOL policy, practice and research. This seminar gathers together ESOL practitioners, policy-makers and academic researchers for a focused discussion about the intersection of their concerns at a critical juncture.

Research perspectives

The sociolinguistics of movements and flows of people works with the concept of superdiversity, or the diversification of diversity in a globalized world. Superdiversity is implicated in a growing amount of research on language crossing, translanguaging, and other sociolinguistic phenomena that occur in migration contexts. This research is contributing to developments in sociolinguistic theory which suggest a move away from the notion of languages as discrete bounded entities, and towards ideas of an individual’s communicative repertoire made up of a set of linguistic and semiotic resources. A key undertaking for researchers is to provide robust sociolinguistic descriptions of face-to-face and mediated language use in an age of superdiversity. What is it to ‘know’ a language in contemporary multilingual Britain? Moreover, how can these new understandings of language use be communicated to audiences beyond universities?

Policy perspectives

In recent years, policy at a national level concerning superdiversity and the learning of English for adult migrants has been contradictory and problematic. Sustained rhetoric insisting that migrants have an obligation (rather than a right) to learn English has continued under the Coalition. At the same time, access to ESOL classes has become progressively restricted, curricula increasingly focus on ‘employability’, and there is an ever-tighter linking of competence in English with migration policy (e.g. a citizenship test which is a de facto English language test; pre-entry language testing for spouses wishing to join their families in the UK). This inconsistency presents huge challenges not only to practice but also to policy-makers locally. How do those with responsibility for the coordination of ESOL provision ‘on the ground’, working as they do in an increasingly complex ESOL landscape but with decreasing funds, execute this responsibility?

Practice perspectives

Applied Linguistic research over the past two decades has consistently demonstrated the importance of encompassing a concern with multilingualism and non-standard varieties of English in pedagogy. This work has had little impact on mainstream ESOL practice: monolingualist notions such as the prohibition of translation and the use of other expert languages in classrooms have persisted in ESOL pedagogy. With the withdrawal of funding for the mainstream, spaces are emerging for the development of new types of socially- and sociolinguistically-aware curricula, pedagogies and resources. There remains a gap, however, between academic and practitioner knowledge, and bridging this gap is vital for both practice and theory. Many teachers are keen to understand and address their students’ linguistic and social needs. How can changes prompted by findings from sociolinguistics and by an increased awareness on the part of students of their own contexts be effected in classroom practice?


The seminar will take place in Building 11-14 Blenheim Terrace, Room 1.17, University of Leeds. We begin at 9.00 a.m. and end at 4.45 p.m.

Session 1 Research perspectives

Language and migration: Mike Baynham (University of Leeds) Summary

Translanguage in pedagogy: Angela Creese (Birmingham University) Summary
Recommended pre-event reading

Session 2 Policy perspectives

ESOL in Harehills: the HENNA project and beyond James Simpson (University of Leeds) and Tiffy Allen (City of Sanctuary)

Local coordination of ESOL provision / multilingual pedagogy: All participants (structured group discussions)

Session 3 Perspectives from practice

Participatory approaches to ESOL: Becky Winstanley (Tower Hamlets College) and Melanie Cooke (King’s College London)

‘Bringing the outside in’ with digital technology: Richard Gresswell (University of Leeds) Recommended pre-event reading


Plenary discussion: All participants


The seminar is supported with a BAAL/CUP Seminar grant, a grant from NATECLA Y&H, and funding from the School of Education, University of Leeds.

Enquiries: contact details

Ms Louise Williams - School Support Officer
Tel: 0113 3434569.
Email: L.Williams@leeds.ac.uk

    Organiser: contact details

    Dr James Simpson
    School of Education
    University of Leeds
    Leeds LS2 9JT
    Tel: 0113 3434687
    Email: j.e.b.simpson@education.leeds.ac.uk


    The cost of the seminar is £20. Please visit the University payment system in order to complete your payment.


    Please complete the registration form and email it to Louise Williams.

    BAAL/CUP Student Bursary

    One bursary is available for a student member of BAAL. This covers registration and £50 towards travel expenses.
    Please complete the bursary form and email it to Louise Williams.

    © Copyright Leeds 2018