ESD case study: Redbridge Institute ESOL programme

There are many Further Education and Training providers and educators who are keen to play their part in education for sustainable development (ESD) and training for ‘green’ employment.

Here, Charlotte Bonner, National Head of Education for ESD at the Education and Training Foundation (ETF), asks how these providers are successfully implementing ESD within their practices.

Successful practices for ESD

In our latest report ‘Leadership for ESD in the Further Education Curriculum’, the ETF put together a series of case studies from several colleges, schools and Further Education (FE) training providers to gather more in-depth research on the experiences and successful practices of effective FE leaders for ESD.

As part of the ETF’s objective to share effective practice and innovative thought leadership, this blog is part of the series of case studies that showcases a few of England’s ESD-leading FE and Training providers, starting with Redbridge Institute.

Redbridge Institute is the adult education service for the London Borough of Redbridge and has approximately 7,000 part-time adult enrolments annually. It is currently one of only two Local Authority adult community education providers to hold an Ofsted “outstanding” grade.

Redbridge Institute: ESOL programme

Nasreen Akhtar, Project Manager for English for Every Day Programme, and Sarah Cremer, ESOL and English Curriculum Manager at Redbridge Institute, share their experiences of how the institute incorporates ESD into their English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programme.

In the ESOL programme, learners use their new language skills and understanding of sustainability to enrich their communities through environmental improvements such as waste management and recycling improvements in their immediate neighbourhoods.

ESOL learners at Redbridge Institute building a sustainable garden

Nasreen Akhtar said:

“As an adult education provider, our learners undertake an ESOL programme that is brought to life through the embedding of sustainability and environmental topics. We aim to equip our learners with the knowledge and language they need to be empowered about sustainable development within their community and homelife.”

The Institute plans sustainable development as a core theme throughout the ESOL programme. Learners are empowered to use their understanding of sustainability and new language skills to enrich their communities through engaging with their local authority and communities to discuss environmental improvements, such as waste management and recycling in their neighbourhoods.

Developing skills through ESD projects

Sarah Cremer, ESOL and English Curriculum Manager, added: “Our teaching team uses sustainability themes as drivers for the development of the learners’ language skills, from improving the local environment to energy saving and the understanding of recycling and waste services.

“When possible, the staff also relate the curriculum content to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, focusing mainly on sustainable cities and communities, as well as responsible consumption and production.”

One popular project looks at waste management and recycling and combines language development, practical everyday life skills and sustainable development. This is brought to life by inviting guest speakers from the local borough council’s Neighborhood Engagement Team, to present and engage with learners. The guests use visual presentations to help the learners understand waste and energy management and how to apply this practically in their lives. 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.

Female ESOL student measuring garden veg patch at Redbridge Institute

Modules on sustainability subjects

ESOL student learning about ESD online

The sustainable development theme is further strengthened by other modules which focus on saving energy and food waste linked to budgeting and shopping. Many of the learners live in high occupancy households in deprived areas of the borough so this new knowledge has real value to them within their homes and community.

Community gardening and creative writing

Redbridge Institute learners, including those on pre-entry ESOL courses, have also worked together 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, which has resulted in learners producing creative work such as poetry, inspired by environmental themes. The plot has also acted as an outdoor classroom in better weather.

Learners’ feedback

Learner evaluations and reflections illustrate how much they value the sustainable development content of their ESOL course. Combining the knowledge, development of language and the self-confidence to engage with others leads to sustained positive outcomes within their 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.”
– Redbridge Institute ESOL Learner

“I want to advise my boss that he has to start recycling.”
– Redbridge Institute ESOL Learner

ESD in an adult education context

William Pickford, Principal, Redbridge Institute of Adult Education, London Borough of Redbridge, said: “Community cohesion lies at the heart of what makes a safe, resilient, happy and proud community and is a core part of the role of the adult education service in Redbridge.

At Redbridge Institute, as we design our adult education programmes, we plan themes that are relevant to our diverse communities and that help to nurture a sense of belonging and confidence in local people. Our goal is to encourage active citizenship by developing strong and positive relationships between people and place. ESD is an important component of this.”

ESOL students at Redbridge Institute building a sustainable garden

Read all case studies in this series

Further information