Covid-19 and ESOL

Resources to help refugees continue learning English during the Covid-19 pandemic

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, many ESOL classes have transferred to online platforms or been put on hold. Even as some ESOL classes begin transitioning back to in-person tuition, some family members you support may still be subject to local lockdowns or strict social distancing measures that make it difficult to continue with ESOL as they had before. Self-guided or online study can be especially challenging where family members have limited literacy skills or are not used to working with technology. We’ve compiled a list of online resources that can help the family you support familiarise themselves with digital learning platforms as well as different resources to help them grow their English skills.

ESOL and Benefits in Covid-19 

Most families’ benefits will be contingent on them attending eight hours of accredited ESOL classes per week, however, while social distancing measures are in place, the DWP will be recognising any type of English language learning as fulfilling this commitment, even if it does not come from a formal college. This means that informal ESOL opportunities or ESOL tuition accessed online through an unaccredited source will count towards the family’s eight hours of ESOL per week. Even though any kind of ESOL practice will be accepted, the family must record any ESOL learning in their online benefits journal.  

As lockdown measures start to ease in your area and ESOL classes open up for in-person tuition, you can help the family to check with their Jobcentre to see if relaxed measures regarding ESOL are still in place. 

Find out more about how Covid-19 is affecting benefits claims during the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Your role in ESOL support 

Although the way the family can access ESOL tuition will have changed since mid-March, your role in helping the family continue to learn English is still important. Here are some key things to keep in mind if the family are continuing to study English from home: 

  • Talk to the family about what they need in order to continue studying from home. Can you provide an extra laptop? Does the family know different online platforms or how to login to online courses? Maybe your support plan or boundaries do not include providing the family with a laptop or other devices, but if it’s possible, now may be a time to make an exception if any Group members have an extra device at home they are willing to donate or loan to the family. Check with colleges if they have devices that can be loaned in this time. 

  • Make yourself available for online support. If the family would find it useful, offer to make a Group member available to chat in English a few times a week during set hours.  

  • Remember that your role is not to enforce but to encourage. If the family members cannot dedicate as much time to studying, that’s ok.  Some people will struggle to learn online.  These are extraordinary times for everyone, especially for those who are newcomers in the UK. 

Digital platforms for teaching: 

  • Zoom- An easy to use platform with options for creating breakout groups or just face-to-face interactions. You can access translated user guides and online videos that explain its use in Arabic from the South West Migration Partnership.  Remember that the free version of Zoom allows for calls up to 40 minutes.   

  • Microsoft Teams- Users will need a Microsoft account to access. Good for secure meetings in small groups and allows you to share screen 

  • Google Classroom- Allows teachers to save documents, facilitate discussions and make comments on assignments. 

  • WhatsApp- This can be a good option for learners with basic literacy needs as you can video call and share online content, like videos, for learners to watch at a different time. Most families arriving in the UK are already well-versed in WhatsApp to keep in touch with their own families abroad. You can download the app for your phone or access it online on your desktop.  

Resources for ESOL teachers 

  • English My Way is a resource for tutors who support and teach adults with no or low levels of English - providing free teaching resources and tools to manage classes. 

  • Education and Foundation Training- Designed to help develop teaching and training practice using technology across the Further Education and Training sector. 

  • Edmodo- distance learning webinars for teachers. 

  • English for Action- a Google Drive with resources to help teachers provide distance learning. 

  • Teach From Home- A temporary hub of information and tools to help teachers during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

  • OneStopEnglish have made all their resources, tech advice and practical tips for teaching ESOL online free until June. 

Online ESOL resources and classes: 

  • The British Council offers online classes for children and adults at different levels. They also have an ESOL Nexus that makes it easy to find Many of their resources are free and they offer online courses for a low subscription cost. 

  • The Council of Europe offers ESOL classes designed for adult refugees and migrants. 

  • Talk English has resources for a more informal approach to ESOL learning. 

  • Speak offers opportunity to sign up to free daily online lessons. 

  • The Refugee Employment Network has also compiled an extensive list of ESOL learning opportunities for adults who are social distancing.  

  • LASSN in Leeds have produced this comprehensive list of online English resources for children, teenagers and adults. 

  • The Manchester ESOL Advice Service have added a new page to their website with resources to help students learn English at home. There is a drop-down menu by level where activities are broken down by topic or skill containing links to resources for that level e.g. speaking & listening, writing, grammar, vocabulary. 

Informal ESOL learning from home: 

  • Encourage the family to listen to the radio in English 

  • If the family have a TV in their home, see if you can help them add Arabic subtitles to encourage them to watch English language programming. The mournful looks and dramatic reactions of EastEnders need no translation! 

  • Heart and Parcel host online cookery and ESOL learning 

  • Go on virtual tours of museums around the world 

  • Don’t forget that you could continue to help the family practice informal English.  We’ve heard of Sponsorship Groups reading stories to the children in English online, playing games over facetime and joining together for activities with the family.   

  • IOHR are publishing films from a resettled refugee in the UK about how adapting to life here has been and these are in Arabic with English subtitles. The family you support might find these interesting. 


Last modified
Wednesday, August 25, 2021 - 10:49
Key things to do
  • Explore your role in ESOL support 
  • Share relevant resources with the family
  • Encourage family to continue learning