Learning English

One of the most important priorities for a refugee family in settling into their new community will be learning English. And a major task for a sponsorship group is to arrange both formal and informal English language learning for all members of the family

The government requires that you must make provision for the adults to be receiving 8 hours of ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) training per week for 12 months or until the refugee reaches ESOL Entry Level 3. This training must start within one month of the refugee family’s arrival in the UK, though some flexibility about the type of ESOL teaching is allowed to reflect the personal circumstances of the individual refugee.  For example, some refugees coming to the UK via Community Sponsorship may be only semi-literate in their own language.

The ESOL training must be provided by a suitably qualified ESOL teacher. This could mean enrolling refugees with local colleges that provide ESOL courses, or it could mean hiring a trained ESOL teacher or finding one willing to teach ESOL in a voluntary capacity. 

As important as formal English classes, is informal learning – in other words, English conversation sessions or simply encouraging the refugees to try out their English, both at home and when out and about in your community. Many groups believe that this is where the family they are sponsoring learn English most happily and effectively.  Ideas you could consider and include in a Learning English plan are:

  • Creating a rota of volunteers willing to visit the family and provide informal conversation practice
  • Supporting the refugee family’s attendance at local community activities such as local clubs, coffee mornings or children’s playgroups

Community ESOL

As you prepare to welcome a family, you may find that ESOL provision in your area is unsuitable or unavailable. This was the experience of Croeso Abergwan, a sponsorship group based in rural Pembrokeshire, Wales. But they rose to the challenge and developed their own ‘Community ESOL’ approach. Their ESOL team members have written a guide to their methods, which you can

Download here.


To meet the requirements of the Home Office for ESOL you will need:

  • Suitably qualified ESOL tutors willing to provide 8 hours per week of English language tuition for up to 12 months
  • This teaching leading to formal English language qualifications
  • Opportunities for the refugee family to learn English through informal means such as conversation sessions