Fuller Lives, Stronger Communities

Earlier this year I met a Polish woman in Luton who told me that the day before she had rung the school to tell them that her 10-year-old daughter was too ill to go to school. This was significant for her as it was the first time she felt confident enough in her English language ability to do this herself. Her husband had always previously made any phone calls that had to be made in English. She was so proud of herself. She was so determined to develop even more English language. She was inspiring the other women in the group, none of whom had ever spoken English on the phone.

Good Things Foundation is evolving, now we have even more emphasis on social inclusion and social change. Social exclusion is very broad; it includes unemployment, loneliness, isolation, and poverty. For a lot of people in the UK who don’t speak English, they’re affected by some or all of these issues. Our English My Way programme, which has been running since 2013, aims to help people with little English language integrate into their communities. That Polish woman in Luton was an English My Way learner and this week we’re celebrating the success of this programme – releasing a report, an infographic, videos and more.

Evaluating success

The ‘big news’ release is the final evaluation report from phase three of the project. This was the first time we’d put a particular focus on isolated women and we also supported community partners in their delivery through capacity building, identifying best practice, progression routes and programme/product development.

Headline stats for me are:

  • 2,789 learners completed the informal 24-week course designed to help people who speak no English to gain some everyday language for use in their daily lives
  • 63% of the learners reported improved English proficiency
  • 45% progressed onto a formal course to go onto that next step and develop more language skills (such as an Entry Level 1 ESOL course).

Seeing is believing

Sometimes describing a project and the impact it has on people simply isn’t enough. English My Way has helped so many people to improve their lives and we really wanted people to see that. That’s why we’ve put together some videos, which you can view below.

Nageswary is a learner at Benn Partnership in Rugby who fled her country after conflict meant she lost her house and husband. She’s a true inspiration and an excellent example of English My Way success.

The second video shows the group dynamic element of English My Way, which is one of the great parts of the programme. A lot of learners get involved because of loneliness or isolation and being able to come together in a group to learn something significant and life-changing helps them to overcome this and make friends. We filmed this video at Neighbours in Poplar in London.

What else is going on?

We’ve also released an infographic this week demonstrating the top stats from the first three phases of the project and from this we’ve created fun social media GIFs. My colleague Chris has also written a blog and we’ve released a special Delivering ESOL in Libraries handbook.

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You can download the full infographic on our website using the link in the paragraph above

 

There’s so much going on and rightly so because this project deserves all of the attention it gets.

This year we’re developing some mobile optimised online learning content and a taster of English My Way so that more local partners can use these resources to change more people’s lives.

Thank you to all the English My Way centres who have made the project such a success so far and a big thank you to the staff and learners who took part in our videos.

English My Way: confident people; stronger communities

Last week I had the very great honour of attending the English My Way celebration event. It’s crazy how quickly the two years have passed since we started this programme and it’s crazy to see the huge impact it has had on people’s lives. And when I say crazy, I mean in a good way.

I’m proud to tell you that over 9000 people were supported by the UK online centres network through the programme to improve their lives and integrate more to become part of their community in the 38 areas of the highest language need across England. 70% of those learners progressed to an Entry Level 1 ESOL course.

It makes me smile that so many of the learners have improved their confidence thanks to the programme:

  • 65% of them said they are now more confident talking to acquaintances
  • 68% are more confident talking in shops or on public transport
  • 61% are more confident in using their new English skills with doctors and other professionals.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to not be able to do something as simple as ask for a bus ticket to get into town, and I’m so happy that English My Way has been able to reach the people who couldn’t do this and make a real difference to their lives.

I’m a huge advocate for digital inclusion and the power digital has to eradicate social issues in society. But English My Way doesn’t just use digital to teach English language – it’s a blended learning programme. It understands what’s easier digitally and what’s better face-to-face, and uses this approach for the best and most efficient outcomes.

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Our new ESOL handbook and the final evaluation report for English My Way

 

In January David Cameron announced a £20 million plan to help Muslim women learn English, to help tackle extremism, discrimination and social isolation. English language skills are of deepest importance and I believe that English My Way can help. The sustainability of English My Way and ESOL in general needs to be embedded in the skills agenda, both locally and with devolved authorities. Tinder Foundation is committed to supporting the delivery of ESOL in communities across the country and our dedication can be recognised through this programme. The evidence speaks for itself: one woman who participated in the project can now speak to her neighbours and invite them over for a cup of tea and another used her new language skills to secure her and her family’s future away from an abusive relationship – that’s just two of the people we’ve helped.

A big thank you

The event brought together people from all backgrounds who made the project happen – stakeholders, learners, consortium partners – and we showed our ‘Thank You English My Way’ video. We also launched the final evaluation report, our ESOL literature review and our brand new ESOL handbook which you can download here.

I want to thank everyone who was involved in the project, including the guys from the Tinder Foundation team. Everyone worked so hard on it and made it all possible. The day wasn’t just a celebration, it really highlighted the ongoing need for ESOL support and funding, and programmes like English My Way for everyone in communities all over the UK, not just for Muslim women.

I really hope that Tinder Foundation can be part of that support.