Adult ESOL

Many school managers have thought about starting English classes for parents. Often these do not materialise. I am currently the teacher for a small pilot project, set up by Caroline Andrews, headteacher at the Reay Primary school, managed by Luisa Ribeiro, and supported by the Walcot Foundation. It is early days and I have not made much progress as yet but here are my thoughts.

Amanda Gay, March 2018

As a visitor to this wonderful school, I am struck by the commitment the teachers have to integrating the pupils’ work, as displayed on the walls, to the locality. In this very diverse area, themes of migration are apparent in art, drama, social studies and English displays. Staffing reflects this diversity, too.

My role is to teach adults who are unable to communicate well in English (ESOL). In the last year 19 students have attended the classes, either staying for a few weeks or persevering all year. Some have been in London for a long time, others are new. Quite a few are connected with this school and neighbouring ones, either because they are parents and grandparents of pupils, or in some cases work as cleaners in the evenings and early mornings. All live locally.

My students have usually arrived from the Portuguese mainland, Madeira or another Lusophone country – Sao Tome e Principe, Cap Verde, Brazil or Angola. This reflects the high proportion of Portuguese speaking families in the Stockwell area. Others are Spanish speakers from South America – another source of recent migrants to Lambeth. Others have come from Lithuania and Eritrea.

Often very shy at the start of the course, everyone flourishes in the happy and calm atmosphere of the school. During the lessons the students get a chance, for some their first, to use computers and online resources, read simple texts and play games in English. They can begin to converse, describing their lives and talking to people about their work and families. And when I say people, I don’t just mean me. At our coffee time anyone who comes into the staffroom talks to the students, patiently waiting for their responses.

Outcomes

  • The students are making noticeable progress. One recently remarked that her clients in the beauty salon had mentioned her improved English.
  • They are prioritising the classes. The regularity of attendance has improved massively, a real achievement when they are so busy trying to earn enough money to live on.
  • I lend them language games to play with their children at home. One person said it was the first evening when she and her children had talked together and not watched television for a long time.
  • Class trips to art galleries and local exhibitions help them learn about the locality. Some had not realised that museums and art galleries are usually free.
  • The students are beginning to grasp that many adults working in the school speak other languages as well and that being multilingual in London is an asset not a hindrance.
  • And that they can use their languages to get a wider range of jobs; for example one student has gained a job at a French speaking school, another at an exchange bureau, another working for the EU.