Bradford College 19092023

Bradford College ESOL Lecturer Receives Royal Invite to Meet King

An outstanding Bradford College member of staff rubbed shoulders with royalty after she was given the chance to meet King Charles.


Esther Wilkey, a lecturer based in the Bradford College ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) department, was invited to Windsor Castle for a day celebrating the legacy and contributions of William Shakespeare to UK culture.


Both King Charles and Queen Camilla were in attendance on the day, as well as various other royals. The event consisted of a 45-minute performance followed by a drinks reception in one of Windsor Castle’s Great Halls.


Esther said: “It was just an amazing time. I spoke to the King. He talked about how much he loved doing Shakespeare when he was younger and we also spoke about what we [Bradford College] do with our students; he was really interested, friendly, and very chatty.”


Esther received an invite due to her day-to-day teaching efforts to keep the legacy alive of the world’s most famous playwright, William Shakespeare. The College’s ESOL department works with The Royal Shakespeare Company (The RSC) to utilise Shakespearian texts within curriculum (from Entry Level 1 through to Level 1) for students who do not speak English as a first language.


Bradford College has a successful history of working with marginalised groups. Bradford was named the first College of Sanctuary in West Yorkshire by City of Sanctuary UK. The region receives around 13% of the UK’s Asylum Seekers with Bradford one of four locations to receive the highest proportion.


“I think a lot of students who come to the UK know something about Shakespeare and there’s kudos in knowing about him. We look at ways of unpicking and simplifying his texts, methods which the students can go on to use down the line for things like their GCSE English,” Esther continued.


“It’s all about cultural capital. Students can engage and really feel part of British culture; that can be so exciting.”


As well as meeting royalty, Esther also got to mix with a range of celebrities including Dame Judi Dench and Helena Bonham Carter CBE.


“It was beyond anything I ever thought it could have been. I’ve worked here [at Bradford College] for 10 years and I love my job, but I never imagined it would lead me to meeting the King. I felt really proud to represent Bradford College,” Esther finished.


“We’re the only College that runs a tutorial programme like this. It was interesting to talk to another teacher there, who said that from me presenting about the work that we do, she’s used similar ideas at her college with their students.


“It’s almost a bit of a flagship concept which will hopefully get others on board and offer these opportunities to their students.”


A group of ESOL students from Bradford College performed at the world-renowned Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre earlier this year as part of Refugee Week (19 – 25 June). The United Nations High Commission for Refugees hosted the fundraising event ‘Moving Stories’ to mark the finale of the world’s largest arts and culture festival celebrating the contributions, creativity, and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary.


Bradford College offers a range of ESOL courses with places still available for 16-18-year-olds. Find out more on the Bradford College website.