English My Way centres in Birmingham come together to share best practice

01 Dec 2016 |Written by Francesca Coleman


Last week I was invited along to a workshop for Online Centres in Birmingham delivering the English My Way programme organised by one of our delivery partners GOAL_Saltley. It was a brilliant morning seeing tutors, volunteers and centre managers working with English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) come together to share best practice about the delivery of the programme and how they support learners to progress through the programme.

It was a brilliant morning seeing tutors, volunteers and centre managers working with English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) come together to share best practice about the delivery of the programme and how they support learners to progress through the programme.

 

What is English My Way?

Funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), we are working with 90 centres to support over 3,600 learners to progress through the pre-entry level ESOL training during August 2016 to March 2017. The programme focuses primarily on supporting isolated groups of women with no or low levels of English to integrate with their local communities - and over 2,000 individuals have enrolled onto courses offered by our centres so far.

 

Why did GOAL organise the event?

Now in their third year of delivery, GOAL have previously visited other centres to observe their delivery and share ideas. Centre manager Yasmin Akhtar recognised there are a number of organisations delivering the programme in the Birmingham area who could benefit from meeting each other, particularly those who are just starting their English My Way journey.

Yasmin told me: “We wanted to give other centres an opportunity to reflect on what has been useful so far, discuss concerns with others, exchange ideas, and seek help and support locally.

“Even though all the centres are in the thick of delivering the programme, it was particularly heart-warming to see so many centres attend the workshop and openly share their concerns and actively and honestly participate in discussions.”

The value of shared expertise

At Good Things Foundation we know about the power of sharing best practice, and the power of networks. When you have organisations like those in the Online Centres Network who work independently to serve the needs of their individual communities, you have valuable, flexible, local services. When you times that by all the other centres working towards a broadly common goal, you can start to deliver something at scale. And when those centres come together to cross-pollinate ideas, tools and methodologies, you get what we call the ‘network effect’.  It’s more than mere economies of scale - it’s an abundance of knowledge and connections and resources that have a deeper, wider and more sustainable impact. It was great to see that in action for ESOL provision in Birmingham.

During the morning staff and volunteers from GOAL, St Paul’s Crossover, Birmingham Settlement and Women’s Help Centre took part in discussions ranging from the finer details of delivery, common challenges (how do you support a class of learners where there are 9 different first languages?) through to more strategic topics such as funding.

English My Way - national network, local delivery

I hope that last week’s workshop is the beginning of a beautiful relationship between the centres supporting each other at both a practitioner and managerial level. It was clear that English My Way has very much bridged a gap in Birmingham, where there’s been very little practical, entry level ESOL provision available. I hope by working together, the English My Centres can reach out to even more isolated women and help them improve their confidence, English language skills, and community connections.

You can find out more about one of the women Goal Saltley has supported by reading Yasmin Begum’s story here.

You can also find out more about English My Way in the evaluation report of the last phase of the project.