Catherine – my new job #4

I’m settling in well as English at Home Manager and really enjoying it, especially getting to meet and speak to some of the amazing English at Home volunteers.

I come from a work background of ESOL teaching and public/voluntary sector administration and a volunteer background of project management, volunteer coordinating and campaigning so I’ll certainly be using all of my experience in this job.

I’ve been an ESOL teacher in Further Education in Leeds and Dewsbury for 10 years so have seen time and time again how beneficial language learning is to people in terms of confidence, ability to cope with everyday life, integration, access to further study and access to work or better work.

I am completely passionate about English language learning being available to all. I have seen first hand how changes in government policy regarding ESOL over the last decade have led to an increasing number of isolated and vulnerable learners being unable to access college provision, which has been utterly heartbreaking and only serves to highlight the importance of English at Home.

I am also passionate about the rights of asylum seekers and refugees and ensuring that public and media prejudice against them is dispelled. Several years of campaigning with Leeds No Borders and befriending numerous asylum seekers and new refugees gave me a deep understanding of the isolation, vulnerability, poverty, trauma, health problems, barriers and disempowerment that so many people experience.

I’m really looking forward to reviewing and developing English at Home over the coming months, to training a new group of volunteers and to meeting all of the tutors and students.


Catherine – my new job #2

I called LeedsCityCollege today to enquire about an EaH student’s application. It was quite illuminating! They have merged their ESOL application process across the whole college. This is a good thing and will save a lot of multiple applications and student confusion. However, this process seemed to be being managed by one (rather stressed) administrator. Also, there were 3000 applications in. This did not include students returning from last year. Some of these will be duplicates or people who no longer need ESOL, but this is still an enormous number.

No matter how much the government cuts ESOL, the need just increases every year. Sadly, my next thought was this – I wonder how many of these will come along to their initial interview and find out that they can’t afford the fees? This year ESOL is free for people on ‘active benefits’ (Job Seekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance) only. Firstly this definition is appalling, as if people on other benefits are doing nothing all day rather than looking after children and elderly relatives, struggling in poverty, suffering complex health problems etc. Secondly, yet again the amount of needy, vulnerable people turned away by college ESOL departments will increase this year.