English Language Skills Project Extended

A PROJECT to help improve English language skills among the town’s migrant population has been extended following the announcement of further government funding.

Three Reading organisations led by adult learning provider New Directions successfully bid for about £200,000 to allow the ‘English Language to Live and Work’ scheme to continue into a third year. The partnership will engage migrant communities and refugees, and provide informal and accredited English language learning opportunities linked to improving the knowledge and understanding of living and working in the UK. The award of £196,931 from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) will enable New Directions to provide fully-funded regulated ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) courses leading to formal qualifications. Reading Community Learning Centre (RCLC) will provide less formal learning for black and minority ethnic (BAME) women, focusing on improving confidence with speaking and listening skills and developing a better understanding of British laws, history and values. Reading Refugee Support Group (RRSG) will provide a drop-in centre with support from case workers and other volunteers who will provide services such as conversation groups and homework clubs. The project aims to provide opportunities to reduce isolation and disengagement among hard to reach migrant communities and encourage participation and integration into the wider local community. Since the beginning of the project, 150 people have participated in New Directions courses with 82 per cent of those taking part in the formal City & Guilds course successfully achieving the qualification. One participant attending an accredited course funded by the project delivered by New Directions wrote of his tutor: “She helped me a lots and I am improved how to speak and how to make my CV skills and also a very great help and communicate online. I hope you keep this amazing work and keep contribution in the community.”

Councillor Ashley Pearce, Lead Councillor for Education, said:

“The extension of the English Language to Live and Work scheme will allow more people who feel isolated and dis-engaged to play an active role in the local community. “It will also give well qualified migrants who are currently in low paid work due to language barriers an opportunity to fully utilise their skills. “The award from the MHCLG will benefit the whole community by encouraging people from a wide range of backgrounds to integrate and participate in their neighbourhoods.” Reading Community Learning Centre has had 399 enrolments from BAME women since the project started, on courses ranging from pre-entry English conversation classes through to beginners and improvers. One of the learners on the course said: “We have a very helpful teacher and manager. “Now I feel stronger, I can speak. I can go shopping, school and talk to neighbours. English is better improving a lot. “When I came I was scared, quiet. Now I am stronger, with friendly with friends. I am healthy. My children and husband are also very good. People here are really nice here. I have made friends in class. I am very happy.”

Mrs Aisha Malik, Manager for Reading Community Learning Centre (RCLC) said:

“RCLC has a long history of welcoming migrant and refugee women from all over the world and from the local area, onto informal classes which help them not only improve their English language skills but builds friendship across cultures, increases confidence and self-esteem and promotes positive health and wellbeing. This gives the women hope that they will achieve their goals. “This funding will enable RCLC to increase the number of language classes, to engage and reach out to more women, as well as provide much needed crèche support without which many women would not be able to learn.”

Jonjo Warwick, Fundraising and Communications Manager at RRSG, said:

"Learning English is key to integration. Without being able to speak English, Refugees can’t access services, gain employment or put down roots in their new home. This has a huge impact on their mental health, their participation in the community and their independence. “We have been supporting refugees and asylum seekers in Reading for 25 years and demand for our services has grown every year without fail, so we are extremely pleased to be able to offer the people we work with more opportunities to learn English."