Gallery and Library

Here you can find videos and research information that give an insight into our work.

The ESOL Podcast TEP S2.E9 – Profile of an ESOL Organisation – United Mothers

Phoebe and Gulay tell us how they got involved and why they love being part of United Mothers.

Click here to listen to the Podcast

United Mothers paper hands


Migrant Mothers: Active Citizens

Drawing on her doctoral research with migrant mothers learning English in east Kent, BTP’s Director Sheila Macdonald has presented her findings at ESREA conferences in Portugal (2011) and Canterbury (2013), DPR (2013), IATEFL (2013), NATECLA (2013) and a joint Open University/LSBU conference in London (2014).

She is particularly interested in how migrant women developing English language skills can become confident speakers in a hostile climate and how research can be used to inform and develop sensitive, appropriate and critical ESOL pedagogy.

More information can be found here
Image of Sheila Macdonald speaking at a conference

Evaluating the impact of the United Mothers programme

United Mothers is a collaborative programme currently operating in East Kent, produced and managed by Beyond The Page Ltd, in partnership with 
Wantsum Arts

The programme’s unique offering combines teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) with Natural Voice techniques including singing, plus drama and other creative activities and aims to achieve lasting change in relationships, communication and participation.

Sessions are attended mainly by mothers who are learners of English but also those who already speak English as a first or additional language.

Click here for the full report

Brokering Britain, Educating Citizens

Exploring ESOL and Citizenship

Edited by: Melanie Cooke, Rob Peutrell 
Chapter 9 by S. Macdonald

Brokering Britain, Educating Citizens Book cover image
“This marvellous book provides an exceptionally powerful response to one of the biggest political, educational and linguistic issues of our day”
Kings College London logo
B. Rampton
Kings College London

Migrant women, most of them mothers, comprise two thirds of the adult education ESOL population and achievers. Their experiences and perception of themselves as competent users of English and active citizens, however, presents a complex picture as their story is not only about the struggle to overcome structural legal and material obstacles to enter and sustain learning whilst caring for young children. 

Cross-disciplinary approaches to community integration and language learning

We have worked with many people who find it hard to progress in mainstream ESOL programmes due to a range of barriers: physical, educational, emotional. Some have undiagnosed learning differences. Since 2012, Sheila has been assessing beginner learners using Cognitive Assessments for Multilingual Learners: an holistic approach to identifying dyslexia  by Anne-Margaret Smith (  and developing strategies to meet their needs. 
In partnership with Jodi Watson of WantsumArts, Sheila innovated an approach combining Natural Voice techniques with ESOL, to support a class of beginner adult learners. The aim was to overcome anxieties, bring voices into the room and engage hesitant learners.

The Action Research Project can be viewed in the link below (Please be patient! It can take a few minutes to load and may not be compatible with your mobile.)



Macdonald, S. & Watson, J. (2022) ‘Voice Activated: A Transformative Approach to Language Learning’.
In Language and Intercultural Communication.

Fascinating reading! I couldn’t put it down, and I knew what was coming next! For me as a UM volunteer who feels as though I totally ‘get it’ in our working/ learning space, this article has, by way of dissecting, analysing and putting back together our whole work practice, given me a really powerful feeling of belonging and pride in all that we share together: women who ‘step out of their comfort zones’ seeking to learn language skills, teachers, facilitators and volunteers - all of us on a journey of learning together. What a privilege!
United Mothers logo
United Mothers Volunteer

Macdonald, S. (2019) “Migrant Women, Active Citizens” In: Cooke, M.& Peutrell, R. 
Brokering Britain, Educating Citizens: Exploring ESOL and Citizenship. UK: Multilingual Matters

Macdonald, S. (2016) “United Mothers: A Partnership EAL/ESOL Project” In EAL Journal Autumn 2016. Naldic, UK

Macdonald, S. & Watson, J. (2014) Engagement through creativity and voice:
alternative teaching and learning methods with beginner ESOL learners. Leicester: ETF/EmCETT

Macdonald, S. (2014) Out in the classroom? Exploring LGBT lives and issues in adult ESOL. In: Mallows, D. (ed) 
Language Issues in migration and integration: perspectives from teachers and learners. London: British Council

Macdonald, S. (2013) ESOL in the UK: A critical feminist analysis. Thesis: University of Sheffield.

Macdonald, S. (2013) Migration and English Language Learning in the UK: towards a feminist theorizing.
Power and Education Vol.5(3) 2013 pp 291-303

Macdonald, S. & Rendell, J. (2011) Building confidence and making friends: how Speaking Buddies support ESOL learners’ integration into a local community. Natecla News

Macdonald, S. (1991) All Equal under the Act? A practical guide to the Children Act 1989 for social workers. London: Race Equality Unit