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Supporting the needs of ESOL learners during COVID-19 - a case study

A case study from independent ESOL tutor Nazneen Gulzar about one of her learners. The case study is an example of how learners are being supported during the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the subject of the case study, the learner has been referred to as Learner A.

Learner A was referred by Job Centre Plus during the pandemic when all classroom delivery was suspended and the only option for learning was online. The learner was enrolled and participated in the online classes, but her attendance was sporadic. When Nazneen initially spoke to her over the phone, the learner explained that she had previously been in an abusive relationship and her confidence levels were completely shattered. She had high levels of anxiety.


She did not bode well in large groups, due to not having confidence being around people, especially those she did not know. Learner A was supported and encouraged to attend the online class at a pace that was manageable for her. She mentioned that she has two young children, who were very attached to her (and her to them) and was worried she would not be able to participate. Nazneen advised she would send the learner an invitation to the online platform they were using but she should not feel pressured to join; just simply joining the class when she felt she could.


After some weeks went by, Learner A still did not join the classes but contacted Nazneen, asking if work could be sent over to complete whilst her children were sleeping. Finally, Learner A decided to pluck up the courage and attend her very first online session. She remained quiet with her camera off and spoke very little. Nazneen decided to message her after the class to see how she found it; the feedback was very positive. The advice was to take small steps and for the next class if she felt comfortable, to turn her camera on to just say ‘Hi’ to the group. She agreed and in the next session, she did. Over a few weeks, Nazneen could see that Learner A was feeling more comfortable with the group and relaxed. She was engaging and participating in all activities.


Nazneen was informed that the online provision would be ending and that onsite delivery would resume. This threw many into a frenzy, as most of the learners were very comfortable with online learning, especially Learner A. She was on the phone once again very scared and at a loss. She did not travel much and it would take her over 45 minutes to get to the proposed centre, where onsite teaching would take place. She was in a panic state as to where she was going to leave her children and that she could not travel that distance with them. Nazneen arranged a WhatsApp video call with her after the class and they spoke in detail about possible solutions to the dilemma.


Learner A informed Nazneen that her eldest child was not attending nursery. The learner was informed about the 15 hours free offer from the Government if she was on benefits. She should receive a ‘Golden Letter’ when her child turned two. Nazneen contacted her sister-in-law (who received a similar letter) to see if there were any contact details to support Learner A. After contacting the appropriate service, Nazneen advised that Learner A’s son was eligible and a letter would be out in the post the following day.


After this, Nazneen and the learner searched for local nurseries. They found one nearby and managed to obtain a nursery place for the child on the same three days the learner attends face-to-face classes. Every morning, Learner A drops her son off to nursery and makes her way with her other child to class. Both have agreed for her to start at 10am (rather than the 9.30am start) to ensure she is not rushing and panicking to reach class on time.


Learner A now attends face-to-face classes three times a week and her exact words were ‘I am never leaving – I love this class!’


Nazneen said: “I’m very proud of how far she has come and built upon her confidence and self-esteem since coming to the ESOL classes. I do hope there is scope for further funding to fund these most needed provisions in our borough, as we have seen so many people come through our doors and develop into confident and independent individuals.”

If you would like to find out more about ESOL classes and how to join, visit www.walsallforall.co.uk/esol or contact the ESOL Intelligence Unit:


Harjinder Lal (ESOL Coordinator) - Harjinder.Lal@walsall.gov.uk

Languages spoken: English, Hindi and Punjabi

Zishaan Mohammed (ESOL Project Officer) - Zishaan.Mohammed@walsall.gov.uk

Languages spoken: English


Natalia Balan (ESOL Project Officer) - Natalia.Balan@walsall.gov.uk

Languages spoken: English, Romanian and Russian