Who are ESOL teachers accountable to?

Teachers within their own subject specialism, in addition to their teaching, carry other vital responsibilities that assist in the functioning of the educational body. English to Speakers of others Languages (ESOL) teachers have a unique role, one that is by no means an easy one, which is to assist in the development and assimilation of new arrivals, refugees and others seeking improvement in English.

There has been cut backs in ESOL funding, thus accountability is even more of a hot topic. As ESOL teachers, we are accountable for our actions, teachings, our classroom and most of all the students themselves. Students’ success and improvement in language relies heavily on the teacher’s strong subject knowledge, learning and teaching techniques and the institution’s support and policies. Moving beyond the classroom other bodies play their vital roles, such as the governmental departments in ESOL this is usually The Home Office and BIS. Recently the government deployed a strategy of taking twenty thousand Syrian refugees over 5 years, Bradford has received nearly 200 and schemes such as Vulnerable persons and gateway protection are allocated to associations and councils who bid and show interest. Schemes can run for 2 years or more depending on contracts. Teachers are therefore most likely at the whim of government actions and decisions, not just in community education but also mainstream colleges. Funding is another issue, again reliant from governmental organisation which as stated has been cut drastically in the last two years resulting in job losses.

I as an ESOL teacher, and like most other teachers in other fields, am responsible for my actions, from equality and diversity, treating everyone equally, empathising, and maintaining professional boundaries. With ESOL learners this is a hard task as all have different behaviours and perceptions and cultures. I am accountable to my line manager, and course leader and this can be from the mundane, filling in registers to more complex tasks such as submitting test results, referrals and course/curriculum issues.

ESOL teachers’ accountability unlike other roles goes beyond the classroom in terms of teaching and learning. Although I may see my students as learners, they are in fact members of a society who are and have been through difficult times, such as war and loss. I am therefore accountable to the society in which I work, as the learners’ assimilation is after all practising language within societal realms.

Levit R et al (2008, p8) in her report states: In the literature five types of accountability are generally recognised: organisational, political, legal, professional and moral/ethical. Each type of accountability has its own methods of working. Organisational accountability works through the superior/subordinate relationships that define actors’ authority and responsibility; political accountability relies on democratic institutions and processes to hold actors to account. Legal accountability works though the courts and other judicial institutions to protect rights and redress wrongs. Professional accountability is promulgated through codes of conduct or practice and systems of regulation designed and operated by peers. Moral or ethical accountability relies on the internalised values to which actors voluntarily adhere.

Accountability is by no means an easy process, nor can it seem accepting as one crack can lead to total breakdown; its complexity can be seen from the above statement regarding the vast array of powers that hold teachers, managers and whole organisations together. Only by working with each other, having rigorous policies, and strong communications within all parameters will enable institutions to provide the service effectively without due hindrance.


Levitt, R., Janta, B. and Wegrich, K. (2008) Accountability of teachers, literature review. Available at: http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/14020/1/1009_Accountability_of_teachers_Literature_review.pdf (Accessed: 1 June 2016).


One thought on “Who are ESOL teachers accountable to?

  1. Interesting piece Saad, speaking as a long term ESOL teacher I agree with your synopsis. Teaching ESOL is certainly not just about language, it’s about cultural challenges, gender based issues, health and childhood problems, dealing with traumatised individuals and much more. You need a strong head (and sometimes a strong stomach when you hear some stories) to deal with day to day problems. Empathy and approachability are paramount, but also a strong grip on your professional identity. Well said Saad.
    Regards Anne Smith


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