Community-based English language learning
Having a good grasp of English is essential to an individual’s ability to integrate into British society, to participate and to get on in life. Improved English language skills not only help people interact with others, they support other social and economic benefits such as employment, participation in voluntary activity and improved educational attainment.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles challenged charities, businesses, local authorities and the adult education and English language sector to come up with innovative ideas to help more people in their communities learn English.
Six projects were chosen through a 2-stage open competition. The 6 winning bids who would each receive a share of the £6 million funding were announced in November 2013.
The 6 projects have now started work and will reach over 24,000 adults with the lowest levels of English and who are most isolated because of it - largely Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Somali women. They will cover our English language target areas: broadly east and north London, east Birmingham, Manchester, towns along the M62 in Yorkshire and Cheshire, Slough, Luton and Bristol. They demonstrate a broad range of ideas and approaches to learning. These include:
- reaching learners through faith communities and holding classes in mosques, churches and gurdwaras
- focusing classes around practical themes, such as engaging with public services, understanding utility bills and social activities such as cooking and gardening
training staff in supermarkets to be ‘sympathetic listeners’ to encourage learners to practise their English in-store - badges will make trained listeners easily identifiable
- developing new software; using technology such as ‘TecBooks’, and using the latest teaching methods in community settings
- involving learners in the design of course material based on their lives and interests
- informal conversation classes and mentoring schemes with local volunteers
The projects delivering community-based English language courses are:
E3: English through Social, Economic and Community Action
- uses an open online course and basic tablets to teach English language alongside face-to-face social, economic and community-based activities, running in 5 London boroughs - find out more on their website
FaithAction: Creative English
- uses an interactive role play teaching style to teach English and improve learners’ confidence, coupled with activities to increase participation; classes will be delivered in familiar venues across 9 faiths throughout England - find out more on their website
Manchester Adult Education Services: #TalkEnglish
- teaches through face-to-face classes, mentoring and community activities; local shop staff being trained as ‘sympathetic listeners’ to encourage learners to try out their English and mentors being recruited to support learners - find out more on their website
London LEAFEA: Speaking English with Confidence (SPEC)
- 1,000 volunteers will lead informal conversational language clubs in local venues and varied outreach activities, including evening and women only sessions
TimeBank: Talking Together
- provides teaching that focuses on everyday English; the project uses volunteers to teach and mentors to help learners practise while building links to local business and community - find out more on their website
Tinder Foundation: English My Way
- provides online learning, tutor-led sessions and ‘Learning Circles’ delivered in community venues; BBC Learning English and the British Council are partners - find out more on their website
We will be sharing information about the various approaches to support strong evaluation and spread best practice. Go to the Learn English blog to find regular progress updates, case studies and submissions from learners.
How these projects were chosen
The funded projects were chosen through a 2-stage competition. On 7 February 2013 we held an open day in the department. You can read the presentations from the open day on the competition background, the 2-stage process and the purpose of the competition.
The stage 1 prospectus launched an expression of interest round.
We received 130 expressions of interest.
Stage 2 of the competition began in May 2013 when the stage 2 prospectus was published. This stage required entrants to complete a full, detailed business case for their project proposals.
The winners were announced in November 2013.
For more information about this programme, please see the Learn English Tumblr blog.