City of Sanctuary ESOL report March 2020
CoS ESOL classes are run by experienced and trained ESOL volunteers who take responsibility for two hours teaching per week.
Over the past six months we’ve had major changes in our programme. From offering two classes at level E 1 and E 2 on a Friday afternoon at the Gregson we now have nine classes at five different levels and at three different venues. As the Lancaster and Morecambe College had cuts we were told last May that they had to reduce from three weekly classes to only two days starting in September 2019. At the same time the College is now complying with the rule of the government that newly arrived asylum seekers cannot access government funded English classes for the first six months in the UK. Of course this is the most crucial time to help people settle into our community and also for the motivation for learning English and a successful integration into the wider community.
So over last summer I set up classes also on Wednesday afternoons from 1 – 3 pm at the Cornerstone and on Fridays at the Friends Meeting House from 2 – 4 pm choosing a venue that’s more familiar and has more rooms plus respecting the finishing time of the Friday prayers at the nearby mosque. As the numbers in the beginners group had drastically risen we soon needed to split the group and have two spaces. Therefore we booked an extra room at the library for our level 3 group which now meets there at the same time.
We now offer a class for total beginners, Entry 1, Entry 2 and Entry 3. We recently had quite a few well educated academics arriving who are keen to get back to university and higher education so I also set up a specific GCSE class on a Friday morning which is run by Mary Sharples who has much experience in GCSE requirements but attendance is by invitation only.
I’m glad to say that we have a fabulous team of enthusiastic teachers and the Wed afternoon is overseen by Rosie Morgan and the Friday by Jane Lippitt. Each afternoon event has refreshments with tea and coffee and apart from an important studying event it always feels like a welcoming community gathering. Each group also has assistants and we have 16 volunteers that are supporting the teachers and individuals during the lessons – some regularly, some on a casual basis. The idea is that if a tutor is away an assistant can fill in and this gives classes consistency and an easy back up in an emergency. Each term we have a teachers meeting where we talk about our success and challenges and discuss possible improvements to our classes.
I’d also like to mention the generous and most helpful support of both the staff at the Cornerstone and at the Friends Meeting House.
We are lucky to have the Awards for All Grant which allows us to pay for rent, teaching resources, refreshments and stationary.
We usually also have an outing at the end of each term but our trip to Williamson Park with two tours at the beginning of April will now need to be postponed due to the Corona Virus emergency.
Our second strand of ESOL teaching is the one-to-one tuition that we offer to Mums with small children or to individual students who need extra support. At present I have 18 students who benefit from a private tutor and some of the tutors are also volunteer assistants in classes. The tutors receive teaching resources and expenses for photocopying and stationary. We have a meeting twice a year and discuss problems that can come up and general guide lines for this work.
Another achievement is our new volunteer pack for our tutors and assistants which was written up with the excellent support and much work from Diane Lamb who in the meantime is now also a CoS trustee. All volunteers get information about the work of CoS and a role description, fill in a registration form, get DBS checked and sign an agreement for ESOL volunteers including a safeguarding policy. This puts us on a safe and professional footing and is much needed.
We are still looking for more ESOL trained volunteers as some of our teachers will take a well-deserved break over the summer and we plan to offer a six week summer programme again while the College will be closing for a ten week vacation.
We always welcome simple English story or general knowledge books and also welcome more one-to-one tutors to join us. We hope to set up a group for Mums with small children and also hopefully arrange some cafe-style conversation groups in the future.
However, as the Corona-Virus is taking over our work might be put on hold and we’re already planning some online or email based teaching groups.
Lancaster 16th March Dorothea Williamson CoS ESOL coordinator