WTRRP English learners club!
Before 2012 the priorities of the charity were to assist clients with their immigration status and offer befrienders. As the most important elements in determining immigration status were the clients’ financial situation and their access to Public Funds, attending English lessons was not always their top priority. However, some knowledge of spoken and written English is necessary for the application, and offering education and training has always been part of the WTRRP ethos.
So a start was made and a few mothers, sometimes with their babies, began to gather in the house of one client. It was friendly, comfortable and chatty (with all conversation in English) with no formal assessment and no end of term test! Sometimes Watford Library was used as a venue, which gave access to a variety of English language course books.
A few members of that original group still attend today, but having significantly improved their skills, some now act as befrienders to new clients.
New clients were, and continue to be referred by health visitors, children’s centres, GPs in housing estates, local churches and existing students.
Following Fr. David Stevenson’s generous offer to use St John’s Church as a venue for both drop-in consultations and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes, the number and size of classes increased. An internationally experienced ESOL teacher joined the charity and awareness of the classes grew.
The students are now not just mothers with small children, but also single men and women. Students’ first languages include Farsi, Turkish, Twi, Shona, Albanian, Tamil, Hindi, Urdu and Arabic. Their ambitions vary too; some want enough English to obtain a job, some to fill in forms for regularising their ‘status’, some to help their children prepare for school and others who just want to improve their ability to be understood.
A large proportion of students are asylum seekers, awaiting a decision from the Home Office on their right to remain in the UK. Until that decision is reached, which can take years, most do not have permission to work or study and often live in fear of being deported. WTRRP classes offer them the opportunity to use their time profitably, improve their command of the English language, learn the culture of their adoptive country and meet others facing the same life challenges. One student recently commented that having improved their confidence with the English language has helped them feel more confident in other areas of life.
We now hold four different classes that meet in different parts of St John’s Church twice a week, with home tuition offered to those who cannot attend classes at the church:
- A beginners’ class
- A pre-intermediate class
- A literacy class for those who speak English, but have weak reading and writing skills. Tuition is on a one-to-one basis for this intensive class
- An advanced class – our best-attended with 15 students
Looking to the future
ESOL provision, like the charity itself, has grown considerably in the past five years and will continue to expand in order to meet the needs of clients. Eventually, we hope to expand the range of classes offered, adding basic IT and numeracy tuition to further equip clients for employment.
The immigration process is a long journey, paved with hopes, frustrations, and too often, disappointments. WTRRP tutors are glad to offer their small contribution and help make present and future lives feel a little less uncertain.
Andrea, ESOL tutor