ESOL for refugees: a toolkit for commissioners and practitioners

Drawing of a diverse group of people seated on sofas on a library, in conversation

Are you involved in English language learning for refugees? Maybe you’re a funder, commissioner, provider or tutor?

This new toolkit offers useful guidance and highlights current effective practice in ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) for refugees. It’s illustrated by nearly 50 case studies from across England.

Drawing of a diverse group of four people seated at a table in conversation, with a book and papers in front of them.

Who is the ESOL toolkit for?

We hope this will be a good source of ideas for anyone working in this field, whether you’re looking for inspiration from peers around the country or you’re new to the world of ESOL or to working with refugees.

What’s in the ESOL toolkit?

The ESOL toolkit is based on research and practice evidence about suitable and effective English language support for refugees.

It contains:

  • Examples of innovative ESOL provision.
  • A discussion of some of the challenges and ways to tackle them.
  • Help with understanding your local refugee population: from issues refugees can face learning English to what an ideal learning journey looks like.
  • A route map through the complex ESOL landscape – funding, commissioning and delivery.
  • Ways to work together locally, with a checklist for ESOL steering groups.
  • Dos and don’ts for ESOL commissioners and providers.
  • Links to online resources for learners, volunteers and teachers.
An ESOL steering group

Using the toolkit: 'A high quality resource that can support and inspire'

Thanks to the North East Migration Partnership [NEMP] for their positive feedback on the toolkit:

'NEMP were very pleased with the opportunity to bring both ends of the region together to voice and inform the development of the ESOL Refugees Toolkit. We are excited to take it to practitioners so that it can be used as a high quality resource that can support, inspire and be referred to by whatever size or type of ESOL provision is out there in the North East.'

'What is suitable and effective ESOL for refugees?': a literature review 

If you’re interested in research on English language learning, we hope you’ll find our new review of the literature on effective ESOL helpful.

It provides an overview of what we can learn from the available research evidence on this topic, with a focus on:

  • initial assessment
  • outreach and referrals of refugees into suitable language classes
  • content and delivery models for social integration and for work purposes
  • linking formal and informal learning activities
  • overcoming barriers to learning

This review was compiled by a team from Leeds Beckett University and NATECLA (the National Association for Teaching English and Community Languages to Adults).

Group of refugees baking

How the toolkit came about

Migration Yorkshire worked with regional strategic migration partnerships across England to create these resources, funded by the Home Office.


We've tried to ensure that both of these publications are accessible. Please contact us if you need a version in a different format.


Illustrations on this page are by Nick Ellwood