One area where practitioner voice is managing to proactively shape policy is in Esol (English for speakers of other languages).
A large number of people who attend Esol sessions are disadvantaged or vulnerable because of their lack of English understanding. This empowers many Esol teachers to take on an advocacy role in addition to a teaching one. In October 2016, the National Association for Teaching English and other Community Languages to Adults (Natecla) launched its own draft strategy outlining teachers’ views on how provision should be taught, coordinated and funded.
This plan was created because of frustration that, unlike Scotland, England has no national Esol strategy. The organisation, celebrating its 40th year, has a history of responding to needs in the community, with staff seeking to address issues that affect the people they teach.
Nafisah Graham-Brown, head of life skills and community at training provider ELATT, was recently appointed its co-chair. “The natural progression was to look at the landscape of Esol and the funding changes and ask, ‘Who is going to do something about this?’” she says.
Sue Pember, director of policy and external relations at adult and community learning provider Holex, describes the strategy as a “gap in government policy that the sector has started to fill”.
And the move to seize professional autonomy appears to be bearing fruit: a government Green Paper, published in March, recommended the creation of an Esol strategy for England.
“We needed to be in control of our profession as we have been in the past,” Graham-Brown says.