England: policy developments
impacting on ESOL basic literacy
Pauline Moon
Helen Sunderland
LLU+ @ London South Bank University
Government departments
concerned with ESOL
Innovation, Universities and Skills
Children, Families and Schools
Home Office
Communities and local government
Work and Pensions
The invisible student
Policy re LESLLA learners
Very little specific to learners with little ed.
Prioritises higher levels (targets)
Teacher education
No requirement to train to teach this level
Previously hidden, will be explicit
Quality assurance
Ofsted report doesn’t mention this work
Revised ESOL Adult
Core Curriculum
follow a short narrative on a familiar topic or
For basic literacy learners, who do not read in
another language, and are starting to work
towards Entry 1:
follow a short narrative on a familiar topic or
At Entry 1:
respond to print as a source of meaning
be aware that words on the page represent
words that can be spoken
read texts for information and enjoyment
read texts for information and enjoyment
A language experience text the learner has
composed themselves and the teacher has
written down, a very simple notice or one
simplified by the teacher.
A very simple book, notices, maps, biographies,
Nelson Mandela is from a village in South Africa.
He was president of South Africa for five years –
from 1994 to 1999.
Current policy drivers
• Leitch review of skills (2006) and government
By 2020 95% adults functionally literate
• Social cohesion agenda & consultation on ESOL
Local areas decide priority groups
• Immigration fears and new regulations
Difficult for unskilled migrants to enter UK
High status literacy
ancient Greek
courses @
Oxford &
Universities –
some for
learners who
don’t read and
write Greek
Classics, Greats
some learners: fewer
languages than English
language learners
prospectuses: “knowledge”
Low status literacy
English language
courses in
post-16 – some
courses are for
learners who
don’t read and
write English
basic literacy
some learners: more
languages than ancient
Greek learners
prospectuses: “skills”
Conceptualising courses
• ancient Greek: an achievement
• English language: to become ordinary
• issues: status, prestige, ideology, discourses,
hegemony, identity
• theory: Gramsci, Foucault, Labov, Trudgill ...
Naming practices
did anyone
ask us?
basic skills
Can’t read, can’t
(recent British TV
Conceptualising the learners:
not beginner thinkers
“…two little four year old girls, one Arabic and
the other American doing ‘scribble’ writing.
When asked what it said, the Arabic child
replied “you can’t read it – it’s in Arabic”.
Hall (1987) quoted in Spiegel and Sunderland (2006)
Route to resolution:
what is literacy?
• social & cultural practices: involvement – not
(New Literacy Studies: Brice-Heath, Street, Barton,
Hamilton ...)
• involvement in literacy practices – not
necessarily doing the reading and writing
(Brice-Heath, Barton ...)
ESOL Curriculum
• curriculum takes a position:
– negotiate relevant learning contexts
(not prescribed – example contexts)
– integrate text, sentence & word level
(curriculum divides – guidance for integration)
• teachers take positions:
– may or may not contextualise learning
– may or may not integrate text, sentence & word
A policy for LESLLA learners?
• What are the pros and con?
• What could go in such a policy?
• Should LESLLA be lobbying for policy
• Should LESLLA be collecting information on
policies in different countries?
Barton, D. Hamilton, M. and Ivanic, R. (2000) (eds) Situated Literacies.
Barton, D. (2007). Literacy: an introduction to the ecology of written
language. Blackwell.
Brice Heath, S. (1983). Ways with words. Cambridge University Press.
Coffield, F (2007) Running ever faster down the wrong road
Labov, W. (2006). The social stratification of English in New York City. 2nd
edition. Cambridge University Press.
Street, B. (1985). Literacy in Theory and Practice. Cambridge University
Trudgill, P. (1975). Accent, dialect and the school. Hodder Arnold.
Foucault on discourse, power and knowledge.
Gramsci on hegemony.
Contact us
Pauline Moon
[email protected]
Helen Sunderland
[email protected]

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