The changed lives behind community ESOL

07 Mar 2018 | Written by Nicola Speake


“Now I can _ thanks to English My Way.” To me, this incomplete sentence says so much about the value of English My Way, our community ESOL programme.

We’ve been using the phrase as part of this week’s celebrations of the impact of English My Way, encouraging our ESOL learners to tell their stories, and I’ve been so moved to hear just some of the stories that fill in that blank.

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On Monday I was pleased to visit one such celebration with Helen Jones, Jennifer Rawlinson and Mohammed Choonara from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government which funds English My Way. We visited Ealing Library in West London where one of our English My Way centres, ACDA Training Limited delivering a regular class

They’ve been involved since year one (we’re now coming to the end of year four). Those timescales are the reason I was able to meet a woman who, thanks to ACDA has gone from being a pre-entry level English My Way learner to a support volunteer to a paid ESOL tutor during the lifetime of the programme. She’s now helping other women go through the same journey, exponentially increasing the impact that her learning has on the whole community.

Of the learner group I met on Monday - all women - none of them had been in the UK for less than two years, and some had been here for as long as fifteen years.

There are numerous and complex reasons why the people the programme is helping have such low levels of English, especially when many of them have been in the UK for so long. But the one thing they all have in common is that the very basics of day-to-day life -whether that’s accessing services like healthcare; finding, getting and keeping a job, or just interacting with the world around them - are much, much more difficult.

Consider the parents who couldn’t understand conversations between their own children and how excluding that must feel.

Consider the woman with medical concerns whose only route to understanding her diagnosis is having her young child translate.

Then consider all the other micro-interactions that are made infinitely more difficult without English language skills - the chat to the neighbour, confidently interacting with retail staff or bus drivers, and more.

All of these factors go to show that the huge value of English My Way is in the difference it makes to people’s confidence, their well-being and their connection to their local community - allowing them to engage and contribute in a way not previously possible.

That’s why Good Things Foundations Design and Explorations Team is currently working hard on a brand new Community Integration Framework.

We think there’s a real need for a recognised guide to help community leaders, practitioners and policy makers to understand what the characteristics of community integration are, what the benefits for individuals can be and how these can be achieved at a local level through community support and interventions.

By articulating what we really mean by community integration, we can build stronger relationships between groups and individuals, and help create a sense of belonging and value for people, as part of their communities.

And just as importantly, we can demonstrate the interventions that create these results, because it’s essential that we evidence the outcomes of our work if we’re to have the focus and investment required to continue making a difference to people and communities.

If you’d like to contribute to the framework, we’d love to hear from you. Please do get in touch at research@goodthingsfoundation.org.