DAVID WILSON meets a dedicated York teacher who is making a difference

LAURA Neale is one of those lucky individuals who has found what for her is a fulfilling job teaching people from all over the world while maintaining her longstanding interest in languages and other cultures.

Born in East Cheshire, her family moved to Kent when she was six months old and where she attended local schools. Her mother Jacky, a primary school teacher, was her earliest inspiration, as was her aunt, a sociology professor at Leeds University.

Laura moved here in 1997 to study French and German with linguistics at the University of York. She then spent two semesters at Lille and Regensburg in the third year of her course and continues to maintain her interest in languages by using apps and podcasts. She told me that she’s on a streak of 197 (days) using Duolingo and regularly watches French TV and does French dictations online.

She has engaged in voluntary charity work in Hull with the Talking Hull project and RAY in York and worked for many years with English in York in Coney Street and St Saviour’s Place.

She did her initial teacher training at The English Language Centre in New Street and took a further Cambridge diploma qualification there while teaching at English in York. She was attracted to this line of work through her interest in languages and linguistics and a natural curiosity about different cultures.

Since September 2022 Laura has worked as an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) tutor with City of York Council’s York Learning team. There she teaches English Skills for Life to adults of different ages from a wide variety of linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Laura’s job description states that she "is to provide an engaging and relevant programme to a very diverse learner group". Her brief is also to "nurture respectful relationships for effective learning and teaching to take place".

York Press: Laura NealeLaura Neale (Image: Supplied)

Laura’s students are a blend of settled migrants who live and work in the local area, and more recently-arrived learners from countries such as Ukraine, Syria and Afghanistan some of whom have complex life experiences and learning needs.

She works with these learners for a total of four hours a day from Monday to Thursday. Her students are all adults and can feel challenged at the prospect of learning a new language such as English.

Laura told me that she aims to make her classroom a safe, memorable place where her students can move away from anxiety and negative attitudes to learning the language. She tries to provide opportunities for them to feel supported and encouraged, and above all, to become achievers.


Find out more about York Learning’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) or other English courses, at yorklearning.org.uk/english-maths/ or call 1904 554277 or email: york.learning@york.gov.uk.


Peer teaching plays an important role in how she teaches, and she finds that her adult students can learn much from each other through classroom pair work and group work.

An important part of her job involves preparing her students for the ESOL English Skills for Life exams. Part of Laura’s role it to be an assessor for Ascentis, a national exam board. A particularly rewarding part of her job is when she gets to hand out certificates at the end of a course. And there’s the positive feedback she receives when, for example, a student comes into class beaming from ear to ear to say that they’ve passed the writing part of their driving test.

Laura’s students are highly appreciative of the work she does with them. One commented that she was simply the best teacher she’d ever had.

Like so many dedicated professionals, Laura finds that her work spills over into her free time. One of her favourite pastimes is walking and she sometimes enjoys planning imaginative lessons on her walks. She is especially fond of hiking around the Yorkshire Moors. Laura has taken part in a number of marathons. Other pastimes are Pilates and yoga. She also enjoys going to comedy nights out, and when home alone loves reading books from a range of genres.

York is indeed fortunate to have attracted people such as Laura to live and work here. She helps to maintain the diversity of a city which welcomes and supports those who are keen to make their own contribution to the local community and to benefit its citizens.

David Wilson is a Community Writer with The Press