Language in context seminar
Speaker: Dr James Simpson (University of Leeds)
Title: Policy formation for ESOL in England: The case of MESH
Abstract: The topic of this seminar is policy formation in adult migrant language education in England. People who move to a new country experience a need to learn the dominant language, for employment, to access services, and generally to support their settlement. A willingness to learn the language is a marker of social inclusion from a political perspective too: an insistence that migrants have an obligation to use a majority language with de jure or de facto official status is a recurrent trope in political and media discourse. In the UK, language education for adult migrants in policy and in practice focuses on the teaching and learning of English and on the area of education called ESOL, English for Speakers of Other Languages. Beyond the rhetoric, policy support for migrants’ learning of English across the UK is inconsistent: there is neither a UK-wide strategy to support the provision of, and access to, ESOL, nor an England-specific one.
My question then is: how does policy for adult migrant language education get formed and enacted locally and regionally, in the absence of direction at national level? To address this, I explore the grass-roots formation of ESOL policy in the years since 2009. I do so through a study of an ongoing initiative established to support ESOL provision for migrants in the north of England. This is the work of MESH, the Migrant Language Support Hub, a small charity set up to enable language learning opportunities for newcomers. Through its development of the LEY&H website (https://www.learningenglish.org.uk/) and its partnership with Migration Yorkshire (the regional body for migration services), MESH has become a key regional ESOL policy player. I analyse policy documents and interviews with stakeholders to examine how MESH is implicated in policy formation, which (following Deleuze & Guattari) I conceptualise as rhizomatic.
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