A Case Study of Asylum Seekers living in temporary accommodation accessing ESOL provision in Ilford, Essex
Redbridge Institute of Adult Education successfully won a bid to deliver the ESOL for Integration Fund for the third year running. The EFIF project is funded by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) and aims to help residents with low levels of English to integrate into their local communities, access local services and improve social interaction. This project is known locally as English for Every Day.
Through regular networking with Redbridge Council partnerships, Redbridge Institute came across a number of hotels in the borough that had recently been converted to temporary accommodation for newly arrived Asylum Seekers. One of these hotels is the Ibis Hotel in Seven Kings which has 92 rooms and accommodates more than 150 people. A majority of the residents have travelled from countries such as Eritrea, Sudan, Iran and Iraq and have been living in London for six months. Some of the residents have made incredibly difficult journeys to reach safety and have arrived via France, Belgium and Germany to name but a few. All residents are waiting to receive their Application Registration Card (ARC) from the Home Office to make their Asylum Seeker status official.
Upon visiting the hotel, the ESOL team were inundated with requests for ESOL classes by the residents. Interviews and initial assessments were conducted across three separate visits to identify individual needs and English competency levels. So far, 51 learners have started ESOL courses at Redbridge Institute across various locations. Most learners walk for 25 minutes from Seven Kings to Ilford to attend their courses and this provides a good opportunity for them to familiarise themselves with the local area. As part of the English for Every Day course, learners will tour the local central library and museum and become members. They will also visit local places of interest such as the shopping centre and a local café to apply their speaking skills. The ESOL sessions cover practical tasks such as using local transport, booking an appointment with the doctor and completing application forms. A safe and friendly environment is created to put the learners at ease and writing books and pens are provided to aid learning.
Once the introductory ESOL course comes to an end, learners will complete a summative assessment to check progress and will then be offered a suitable progression course that suits their needs. Of course, there is no guarantee that the residents will remain in Ilford or East London when they are rehoused but they will be guided by the ESOL Advisory team on their next steps in their learner journey regardless of their destination. The Institute has already seen a change in the learners’ behaviour and mindset. Learners come to class with a positive attitude and determination and leave with a smile. They have been able to meet new people and make new friends within the first few weeks of the programme.
Quote from learners, teacher and manager of the hotel:
‘I enjoy coming to English classes because staying at the hotel all day is stressful. The teacher is helping me improve my English and my vocabulary is getting better. I feel more confident speaking in English now than before’.
‘This course is really helping me learn to read and write and I want to continue learning after this course ends because I want to challenge myself further’.
The teacher has found the learners to be ‘very enthusiastic about attending classes. They are keen to ask questions for clarification and engage very well in discussions to improve their language skills’.
The EFIF Project Manager in Redbridge has welcomed the diversity of people settling in Ilford and engaging in ESOL courses. ‘We would not be able to support these individuals to take their first steps in learning in the UK and to integrate into local communities without the EFIF project funds as they are not yet eligible for mainstream ESOL funding until their status is approved by officials. The fund enables us to help these learners to grasp opportunities to settle confidently in the UK and improve their future prospects’.
Paula, who manages the Ibis Hotel has seen first-hand how the ESOL programme has benefitted the hotel residents:
‘the residents are so happy and enthusiastic about this new chapter in their lives. The ESOL team are amazing, (providing) very smooth interaction with the residents and this is giving them the trust to come and learn’.
Paula Azoitei, Area Manager for Stay Belvedere Hotels Ltd
Written by: Nasreen Akhtar, Project Manager: English for Every Day, Redbridge Institute of Adult Education