Published on 2 July 2024
By Angela Palmer, June 2024

Out and About at the NATECLA Conference

I attended the NATECLA conference this weekend as a day delegate. As always, it was a fantastic, inspiring day surrounded by ESOL folks!

The Keynote by Richard Chinn, of Kings College London focused on emergent language and how to make the most of it in the ESOL classroom. This was great to hear: he used examples of situations where teachers made the most of language that arose during discussions in the classroom, coming away from the lesson plan but leading to a much deeper exploration of the language that ESOL learners hear and use every day. This resonated yesterday, at an event in Leeds, where a learner asked me: “What’s the matter?”. I was confused (I thought I’d been smiling!) until I realised he meant to ask “What’s up/ How’s things?” – a great opportunity to benefit from emergent language!

The best thing: Inspiration!

I was inspired in many ways by the workshops I attended. Firstly, the idea that teachers can also be researchers through self-reflection on their practice. This can be a valuable addition to published research in the field of TESOL. Cathy Clarkson (pictured), from Bradford College, shared her EdD journey with us, using Action Research to deeply reflect on her CELTA trainees’ use of Teams chat during observations.

Next came the workshop led by Ruth Taylor and Fiona Long, who showed how collaboration between local partners can be extremely valuable for ESOL learners. Ruth is Deputy Head of the ESOL department at City Skills in Salford, and Fiona teaches English to refugee and asylum-seeking doctors at REACHE preparing for the OET exam. REACHE is The Refugee and Asylum Seekers Centre for Healthcare Professionals Education. It offers free language & clinical training from NHS clinicians and academics for refugee & asylum seeker healthcare professionals based in England.

This collaboration means that doctors from a refugee background spend time with current ESOL learners, talking about medical English, but also focusing on the all-important layman’s terms that medical professionals must use with the public.

For more information on REACHE, visit:

Inspired by Ruth and Fiona’s story, the group of delegates came up with all kinds of ideas for future collaborations, for example teachers from the local high school coming in to talk to learners about the admin that is expected when they have a child at the school.

Last but not least was Sam Shepherd’s talk on how teachers plan their courses, and how learners can have more influence on this. This led to a lively and interesting discussion, with the views of tutors who work at FE colleges and those who work for Community organisations providing interesting counterpoints. The perfect way to end a very thought-provoking day!

Picture: Cathy Clarkson ‘Teachers can do research: An evolving story of action research’

The best thing: Inspiration!

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