WP284 Brokering Britain, educating citizens: Critical ESOL issues and principles

Cooke & Peutrell


This paper is about the relationship between citizenship and ESOL for adult migrant students. When citizenship was inserted into the ESOL curriculum following the Nationality, Asylum & Immigration Act 2002, some teachers welcomed it, others were anxious, and some resisted it as ideological and intrusive. Over time, policy attention has moved on to other curriculum themes, such as the teaching of British Values and employability. Yet ESOL remains a crucial site for the citizenship education of migrant adults in the UK. But what does this mean? To answer this question, this paper draws on our recently-edited collection, Brokering Britain, Educating Citizens. Linking citizenship and socio-linguistic theory with three case studies of migrant language learning taken from our book, the paper distinguishes between citizenship as top-down, prescribed and state-centric (and concerned with promoting national identity, national language and national security) and citizenship as a participatory, dialogic and emergent practice. It shows the relevance of this second, bottom-up idea of citizenship to ESOL provision. In doing so, the paper draws attention to the pivotal role of ESOL teachers as ‘brokers’ of citizenship mediating between top-down, mandated ideas of citizenship and the ideas and experiences of ESOL students as they emerge in the classroom. It goes on to outline four key principles that we believe should inform ESOL provision and the practice of its teachers if ESOL is to be consistent with the democratic citizenship its practitioners mostly advocate.