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– do you pay for it?

I’ve asked myself the same questions over and over again during my time working as an ESOL teacher. These questions are always along the lines of Where is so and so?, Why aren’t they coming to their lessons? and, this evening, If you’ve paid (or at least signed up) for your ESOL course, why wouldn’t you show up to your exams?

Non-attendance, both to lessons and exams, is a serious thing in the UK further education sector. Poor attendance is an indicating factor of a failing course as far as management and inspecting bodies are concerned. This is probably just as it should be, and the adage is that if you up your game and teach interesting lessons, the students will attend. However, this does rather ignore the fact that, for some students, sometimes there are more pressing concerns (at least for them) than coming to their English lesson. I’m thinking child care commitments and last-minute overtime they may get roped in to doing at work. Honestly, if you had to choose between an extra 50 quid (it’s probably less than this) and a couple of hours of English, what would you do?

I’ve wondered about this since I started working in ESOL, in particular trying to get my head around why students would mindfully miss their lessons. Especially when their English is the gatekeeper that prevents them from moving on in their studies and work. Because ESOL is co-funded, that is both the student and the government out money towards the cost of tuition and examining, (and it was even fully funded by public money in the past), I wondered if this had a bearing on how much the students valued their English courses.

A student who has been fully funded, ie who hasn’t had to pay anything towards the cost of their course, might be forgiven for thinking well I haven’t paid anything, so it doesn’t really matter if I don’t go to my lessons.

However, what about from the other perspective?

If a student has paid towards the cost of their course (this is likely to be in addition to money coming from the taxpayer) maybe they think I paid for this course, so don’t I have the right to decide to attend my lessons or not.


Honestly, over the years, I’ve tried teaching in different ways and even pandering at times to students demands for ‘proper teaching’ (read worksheets and grammar). I’ve consulted with students about what they want from lessons, a lot of the time die thing they aren’t able to articulate. I try to challenge my students so they feel they’re really working hard.

But that’s one element, because this evening I am asking myself why my evening students haven’t shown up to their exams. They’ve known these have been coming for a while and we’ve been doing focused practice to help them prepare (but not so much that I go insane teaching to the test in this way!).

They still didn’t come to the exam. Examiners come specially sent by Cambridge English Language Assessment. Teachers at my college have to give up time to act as interlocutors in the exams. What a waste of time and money when the students don’t show up?

Is the answer charging student for non-attendance for exams? Would it be too much to introduce this for lessons? How do you manage and encourage good attendance where you work?