Creating accessible services

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Co-financed by the European Fund for the Integration of Third Country Nationals

7. Creating accessible services

7.8 ESOL services

English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) can be a critical service for migrants.  The ability to communicate in English is one of the key factors that enable migrants to integrate into Scottish society, and to find employment which is in line with their skills and experience.  In addition, ESOL classes often provide important information about local services and local communities, and access to a wider social network for migrant language learners.

Education Scotland has policy responsibility for ESOL in Scotland.  It has produced an ESOL strategy for adults.  The vision for ESOL provision in Scotland is:

“That all Scottish residents for whom English is not a first language have the opportunity to access high quality English language provision so that they can acquire the language skills to enable them to participate in Scottish life.”

Each local authority has its own approach to co-ordinating ESOL provision.  In some local authority areas, providers have developed a strong partnership approach to sharing resources, to ensure that local needs are met effectively, and provision links well together.

Many children who have English as a second language are in the very early stages of acquiring English.  This results in significant language support needs within schools.  However, engaging with children and their parents as a family can be a very useful way of encouraging whole families to build English skills together.

Case study

In South Lanarkshire, a family ESOL project has seen significant positive outcomes for parents and their children, including increased confidence in communicating with school staff and other parents, an opportunity to meet other second language speakers and support for children when moving to the next stage of schooling.

Case study

The City of Edinburgh Council’s, Community Learning Development team has developed a Speakeasy project that is aimed at secondary school pupils aged between 16 and 17 years.  The project has helped to build the confidence of young people by developing their English language and communication skills, and has also enabled them to integrate better within their local communities.

Some migrants with good English language skills can find a need for ongoing ESOL support in the workplace, where language can be technical, and very specific skills may be needed.  Others may have difficulty attending regular ESOL classes due to long working hours, care responsibilities and transport issues, especially in more rural areas. It is worth considering whether you can build relationships with local employers to offer advanced English support, or to provide flexible access to language learning, to ensure that migrants do not face disadvantage in the labour market.

Case study

Highlife Highland runs a project to support migrant workers.  It has appointed a Co-ordinator within the Integrated Learning Communities team, to support inward migrants and their families.  The Co-ordinator offers signposting and guidance to services they may need to settle in Highland, as well as English language support.

Case study

Aura is Columbian and lives in Montrose, having moved to Scotland in 2005.  Although she worked as a primary school teacher in Colombia, she found learning English very difficult, and felt she needed to learn the language in order to integrate fully in the local community.  She joined an ESOL class in Angus near her home.  She described her tutor as ‘exceptional’.  He has used “different resources, including using visual aids, and I’ve learnt a lot. I now understand many things, including about expressions and attitudes. I am very happy now.” 

Aura also described her experience of learning to use the computer in the local library. She said that the teachers there are ‘extraordinary and patient’. She had no prior knowledge of using emails before going on the six months course, and can now communicate with relatives in her home country, as well as others.

Aura would like to help other people with language learning, and is keen to continue with her ESOL classes. She meets lots of new people that she wouldn’t have been able to communicate with, if she hadn’t gone to the ESOL classes. She now feels that she is part of the community in Montrose, and would like to stay there.

Find out more...

In early 2017 COSLA commissioned Research Scotland to deliver learning and support for those delivering and planning English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) for adults who have been resettled in Scotland through current refugee resettlement schemes.

The project involved:

  • A series of four regional learning events which brought together those involved in the planning or delivery of ESOL within the resettlement schemes to explore and share their experiences and practice.  These took place in May 2017;
  • The development of a good practice guide in order to bring together learning from the four regional events, and discussions with individual practitioners, experts, and learners; and
  • A national learning event held in October 2017 to share the draft guide, and further enable learning amongst practitioners at a national level.


The finalised guidance was published in December 2017.  It  provides advice and examples that you might find useful if you are planning or delivering ESOL for refugees who have been resettled in Scotland, including through the Syrian Resettlement Programme (SRP) or the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Programme (VCRS). The guide is based on the experiences of ESOL practitioners, strategic leads, learners and relevant experts practising in Scotland.  Practitioners have emphasised that many of the lessons discussed in relation to refugee adults being resettled in Scotland can be applied to other groups of learners too.