We offer 8 English sessions every week, taught by qualified teachers. Classes are offered at two levels: ESOL A for clients with little, or no English, and ESOL B, for clients who are more advanced. Our volunteers ensure that clients can get 1:1 support, and English is spoken throughout the Centre to support language learning.
“Before I started coming here, I could not speak English. Before I could not speak on the bus and people laughed at me because of my broken English. It was difficult to explain my pain to the doctor. Now I’m so happy and confident because I can communicate with people.”
Community English Learning
We offer a range of activities to enable clients to meaningfully use their developing English language skills in a number of different contexts, such as in a gardening or arts setting, through our community partnerships, our arts projects, and our social events.
The content of the classes is varied in order to meet our clients’ diverse needs, and included: conversation-focussed classes, small group working, and 1:1 reading groups within a wider general English language curriculum. The key focus is ensuring classes are engaging and interactive, and relevant to students’ needs while ensuring progression in skills. This means specific lessons or groups of lessons on key areas for client integration and independence, including shopping, listening to and following directions, making appointments, and talking to doctors and hospitals, as well as lesson focussing more widely on aspects of UK culture for more advanced learners.
In addition to our regular programme of classes, we undertake community English learning sessions, including sessions outside core Centre opening hours, in partnership with Speak Street, and arts organisations and museums such as the Wallace Collection, V&A, and British Museum. This supports clients to engage with English language learning in new settings, often in themed classes, as well as supporting clients to engage with and develop their own interests: for example, sessions at the Skip Garden focussing on gardening and cookery.
“Attending the English class has helped me improve my English so that I no longer need an interpreter. Now I can do everything for myself, for example communicating with my solicitor”
Why is English language learning so important?
English language acquisition is key to enabling asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants to fully integrate. Without English, our clients find it hard to communicate. Important information about, for example, asylum decisions, may go unread. Employment, education, and training, are out of reach to those without sufficient English.
Poor English skills mean that clients can find it very difficult to begin to build the social networks and support they need to rebuild their lives in the UK; isolation in turn impacts upon fragile mental health.
There is a severe shortage of English classes, particularly for destitute asylum seekers, who are not able to access the limited free provision, and who cannot afford any fees. Due to our clients’ additional needs, the provision of English language classes in the context of a holistic service that provides advocacy, emotional support, and practical support such as food and clothing, is key to enabling them to engage with classes.