ESD Blog: A Case Study on English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) at Redbridge Institute

As part of our latest report on Leadership for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in the FE curriculum, several FE, training and skills providers shared their insights and actions in implementing ESD within their space. Here, Joni Cunningham, Nasreen Akhtar, project manager for English Every Day, and Sarah Crème, project manager for ESOL at Redbridge institute share their experiences.

Redbridge Institute is an adult education provider. Teachers design and deliver sustainable development content to pre-entry and entry 1 ESOL learners using a range of practical activities with real-life application supported by engagement with officers from the Borough Council. Typically, the learners undertake a 30-hour ESOL programme brought to life through sustainable and environmental topics with the aim of providing them with the knowledge and language they need to be empowered about sustainable development within their community and home lives.

Sustainable development runs as a core theme throughout the ESOL programme. The work and projects were initially a result of Redbridge Institute’s Sustainable Development Task Group which looks at how sustainable development can be embedded within the curriculum across the whole Institute.

“Learners have used their new language skills and understanding of sustainability to be able to enrich their communities through environmental improvements such as waste management and recycling improvements in their immediate neighbourhoods.”

Staff leading on sustainable development include the Principal, Joni Cunningham (recently retired), and curriculum managers Nasreen Akhtar and Sarah Cremer. Central to their approach is to use activities which help their learners to develop language that enables them to engage effectively with local authorities and councils. Learners have used their new language skills and understanding of sustainability to be able to enrich their communities through environmental improvements such as waste management and recycling improvements in their immediate neighbourhoods.

The teaching team use themes such as improving the local environment, energy saving and the understanding of recycling and waste services as drivers for the development of the learners’ language skills. The team also relate the curriculum content wherever they can to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, focusing mainly on Sustainable Cities and Communities and Responsible Consumption and Production.

Learners who have left Redbridge Institute have returned to tell their teachers about how they have used what they had learned on their course. For example, to successfully request, as part of the London Borough of Redbridge Civic Pride initiative, street closures for goods sales and community events such as play streets. The team believe that this validates the focus they place on the UN Sustainable Development Goal of Sustainable Cities and Communities and its use as a key driver in helping learners to make the link between sustainability, local community and civic improvement actions.

A project they set for learners, which combines language development, practical everyday life skills and sustainable development, looks at waste management and recycling. This is brought to life by inviting guest speakers who work in waste management companies, including officers from the local borough council, to present to the learners what work is being undertaken. The guests use visual presentations to help the learners to learn about waste and energy management and how to apply this practically in their lives. Prior to the guest speaker visits, teachers work with the learners to help them prepare questions. After the visit a reflective exercise is used to consolidate the learning and assess how the learners can apply what they have learnt at home, at work and in their communities.

The sustainable development theme is further strengthened by modules which focus on saving energy and food waste linked to budgeting and shopping. Many of the learners live in high occupancy households so this new knowledge has real value and has a direct application for them within the home and community.

Higher level ESOL learners have helped to create a community gardening plot within the grounds of the Institute. The plot includes a greenhouse made from recycled plastic bottles. Teachers use this resource as stimuli for creative writing, this has resulted in learners producing for example poetry on environmental themes. The plot has also acted as an outside classroom in better weather.

Entry level 3 learner evaluations and reflections illustrate how much the learners value the sustainable development content of their course. The combination of the development of language, self-confidence and knowledge leads to positive application and impact within the learners’ workplaces, communities and households.

Here are some examples of what the learners said about their course which illustrate the impact of the learning:

“In Clayhall there is no recycling bin. I will call Redbridge Council to tell them to please give us this facility”

“I want to advise my boss that he has to recycle the rubbish.”

“We liked the play street idea. We learnt so much about street clear and where to put our waste things.”

“I like this presentation very much. I would like to invite play streets in my area please. In that events we can know each other and we built a lovely neighbourhood.”

“I like the way she explained about how we can make compost.”

“I always put my recycle bin in the right place.”

“We learn some good things like how to save water from the rain. Turn off our electricity from the socket.”

“We also learnt where we contact for big rubbish bins.”

“We learnt where we keep old furniture and that the council will take this 3 times a year.”

“I know more information about recycling and how to clean the area.”

To discover more case studies and findings, take a look at our leadership in ESD report.



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