TEFL vs ESOL Teaching
TEFL vs ESOL Teaching:
I’m often asked what are the main differences between
teaching TEFL and ESOL in the UK? After all teaching English as a foreign
language (TEFL) sounds pretty similar to teaching English as a second language
(ESOL), doesn’t it?
I’ve spent several years working for both the TEFL and ESOL sectors
in Plymouth, UK. I’ve taught in two private TEFL language schools and also at an
ESOL school. Nowadays, I tend to teach ESOL students from September to June and
then in private TEFL school in July and August .
Generally, I would describe the main difference between TEFL
and ESOL in the UK, is that students in private TEFL language schools come to
learn English for a short period of time (either for a holiday or course) with
the intention of returning to their home country afterwards or going on to
study at a university in the UK.
The ESOL sector, on the other hand is for students who have
moved to the UK permanently. This could be because they are migrant workers,
they have married a British person or they have fled their countries because of
war and persecution and are asylum seekers or refugees.
The differences between teaching in these sectors in the UK
are quite vast.
Here are a few of the main ones I’ve encountered:
Private language schools
The private sector tends to be more seasonal with mainly
zero hour contracts. In the UK a TEFL teacher can earn a lot of money between
March and April, but struggle to find work during the winter months .
The private sector tends to follow the CEFR guidelines
for English Levels (A1-C2) .
The private sector tends to focus more on teaching for
exams such as IELTS, First Certificate and TOIEC (depending on what the
students’ requirements are).
The private sector often teaches specialist English
such as aviation English (TEA), Business English and English for specific purposes
Classes in the private sector can be between £250-400
a week (depending on the language school or time of year) .
Private 1:1 lessons can also cost between £20-40 for one hour (depending on the
Many language schools run homestay Summer Schools for
teenagers, which feature English lessons and activities (such as bowling, going
to the cinema etc.) .
The majority of students attending classes in a
private school tend to have had previous experience learning English in their
The lowest level I’ve taught at a private language
school has been elementary (A2) and the highest level has been advanced (C1).
From my personal experience, the private sector has
only a small amount of paperwork and teacher admin. I have very rarely been
asked for a formal lesson plan or scheme of work. Often the teacher follows a
curriculum or specific textbook, depending on what course is being taught.
- The ESOL sector on the other hand is subject to OFSTED requirements, so it has quite a lot of paperwork and admin.
For my current school, I am required to produce daily
lesson plans, schemes of work and complete Individual Learning Plans (ILPs) for
each student that I teach.
The ESOL sector follows the UK adult education guide
for levels. ESOL Levels start from Pre-Entry (absolute beginner) to Level 2.
Check out my ESOL guide for more information on Levels https://www.esolqueen.co.uk/p/what-do-all-acroynms-mean-and-other.html
Students in the ESOL sector tend to work towards the
ESOL and Functional Skills exams, in reading, writing, speaking and listening. They
might also complete courses for employability and interpreting .
There is a big emphasis on community integration in
ESOL. Some ESOL classes might focus on the practicalities of living and working
in the UK and helping students to understand British culture and values.
· Some ESOL students may have no previous experience learning English or attending school before. This might be the first time they have held a pen or learnt to use a computer. This year I have taught a class of completely illiterate students in both their first language and in English.
The cost of lessons depends on the students and can
vary on their individual circumstances. If a student is working, then they
might be expected to pay, but if they are on Universal credit or are seeking asylum
then their lessons will possibly be free. For more information about funding
check out my school’s website https://odils.com/free-english-language-courses-devon/.
I personally find the ESOL sector extremely diverse,
as I teach students from over 40 different countries from Brazil to China and
every county in between. My students are extremely keen to learn as they know
learning English will make a big difference to their lives in the UK.
Overall, I think there are many benefits and challenges for
working in both sectors. I am grateful to have positive experiences in both
TEFL and ESOL.
Do you teach TEFL or ESOL? Let me know in the comments box
below and I would love to hear about your experiences.
Except for this year due to Covid-19, where there is very limited TEFL work
This is based on my experience of private language schools in Plymouth.
See my blog page ESOL explained for more information about CERF and ESOL Levels
For more information see https://www.onestopenglish.com/adults/business-and-esp/esp-lesson-plans
Here is the example prices for Mayflower College in Plymouth https://www.maycoll.co.uk/english/courses-adults.htm#xl_GE
out Mayflower College’s website for an example Summer School programme https://www.maycoll.co.uk/english/courses-adults.htm#xl_GE
See my guide to ESOL Levels here https://www.esolqueen.co.uk/p/what-do-all-acroynms-mean-and-other.html
For more information check out my school’s website https://odils.com/free-english-language-courses-devon/