On a visit to Oasis in Cardiff, the Minister for Education and Welsh Language Jeremy Miles, had the chance to see how a Welsh Government funded project was helping volunteer teachers teach English to refugees and asylum seekers.
The project is one of six Citizen’s Curriculum pilots which, supported by almost £250,000 of Welsh Government funding, is managed by the Learning and Work Institute. Each of the projects has a different theme, with adults involved in the design of the curriculum content to ensure they are learning skills relevant to their lives and work.
Volunteers and teaching staff have been working with the University of South Wales to design a teacher training course at Oasis that meets the needs of people seeking sanctuary in Wales. The content of the lessons is based on the real life needs of the learners.
Refugees and asylum seekers face unique challenges and barriers upon arriving in a new country. They may struggle to carry out even basic tasks like seeing a doctor due to language barriers, and some have literacy needs due to disrupted schooling.
Free ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes take place at Oasis five days a week, where the new teacher training course is being delivered. For many refugees and asylum seekers, these classes are their primary social space, providing a sense of structure to their lives and offering both linguistic and psychological support.
One of the refugees involved in the pilot said:
“When I came last year I had depression and anxiety. I didn’t know about the English language. But I feel relaxed when I come to Oasis and I learn a lot of things here. They give me ESOL class but most importantly confidence. I will never forget this.”
Laura Phelps, Head of ESOL at Oasis said:
“The Citizens’ Curriculum funding has allowed us to train volunteers in using participatory approaches in the ESOL classroom. This means learners’ real and immediate needs are addressed in class and they can feel at home in Wales more quickly.”
Josh Miles, Director for Wales, Learning and Work Institute said:
“We’re delighted to be working with Welsh Government and partners like Oasis on a Citizens’ Curriculum for Wales.
“What makes the Citizens’ Curriculum truly different is the way it’s developed and taught. It’s about working with learners around what they want to learn and how they want to learn it.
“This is what links it so strongly with the Curriculum for Wales that’s currently being rolled out in schools in that the emphasis is not on prescriptive, top-down learning but empowering the individual to meet their own potential through their own learning.”
The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles said:
“As Education Minister I have been clear that we must give everyone the opportunity to reach their full potential by ensuring Wales becomes a ‘second chance nation’.
“These pilots are helping to deliver this aspiration by taking different approaches to engage learners and improve outcomes.
“I’m pleased to see the Citizen’s Curriculum working so effectively in practice here at Oasis, to improve the educational outcomes of refugees and asylum seekers.”
The other pilots which are part of the scheme are:
- The Open University in Wales in partnership with Merthyr Valleys Homes to enable tenants to return to learning.
- NE Wales ACL Partnership – Securing my Future, aimed at adults who are over 50 years of age and unemployed.
- Cardiff and Vale College – Community Focussed Schools. Re-engaging adults in learning using the assets of a local secondary school
- Adult Learning Wales – a pan-Wales Health & Well-being Pilot Programme
- Adult Learning Wales and Welsh Centre for International Affairs – Global Learning pilot programme
It is estimated 276 learners will be engaged directly on the Citizens’ Curriculum pilots, with a further 650 learners indirectly involved.