Press release

Thousands to benefit from exciting new ways of learning English

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

6 winners of £6 million English language teaching competition are announced.

Shop staff, volunteers and faith groups will be at the forefront of innovative new English language tuition, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced today (13 November 2013).

Six creative and original ideas have won a share of £6 million to launch new projects to bring English language learning into the heart of the community and reach some of the most isolated people.

Over 24,000 non-English speakers across London, the Midlands, the North and Bristol will benefit from the new projects which have an average cost of just under £500 per head, resulting in long-term savings for future English language teaching.

The winning ideas include:

  • reaching learners through faith communities and holding classes in mosques, churches and gurdwaras
  • focusing classes around practical themes, such as engaging with public services, understanding utility bills and social activities such as cooking and gardening
  • training staff in supermarkets to be ‘sympathetic listeners’ to encourage learners to practise their English in-store - badges will make trained listeners easily identifiable
  • developing new software; using technology such as ‘TecBooks’, and using the latest teaching methods in community settings
  • involving learners in the design of course material based on their lives and interests
  • informal conversation classes and mentoring schemes with local volunteers

Recent Census figures showed that across England 1.7% of the population have either no, or poor spoken English – rising to 9% in some London boroughs. The competition targeted areas across England that will benefit the most from these new projects: where increasing levels of spoken English will achieve the greatest results.

The benefits will be far-reaching and have a wide impact on local areas by enabling more people to participate in their community, gain employment and increase their voluntary activity.

It will also lead to reduced translation and interpretation costs for local public services – money which could be better directed at services that will benefit all residents and communities, as everyone is instead incentivised to learn English.

All 6 winning ideas also have the potential to change how community-based English language is taught in priority areas in the future. The original concepts and new methods can become benchmarks for teaching. For example, in some of the projects students can progress to becoming a champion of the programme within their communities and eventually volunteer to assist with it.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:

Speaking English is crucial to allow us to come together and be part of British society. People are unable to do this and are condemned to a limited life if they can’t speak our language.

These fantastic projects will have a positive impact on local communities, enabling people to fulfil their potential, to communicate with friends and neighbours, gain employment and increase self-confidence.

Learning English should be a priority and I’m delighted that the winning projects will enable individuals to learn in the heart of their community in exciting new ways that were never previously available.

Competition launch

In January 2013, the Department for Communities and Local Government launched a competition to find new ways of delivering accessible, community-based English language aimed at those who most need it across priority areas of the country.

The competition addressed the problem that traditional English language classes are not always suited to the people who need them the most – such as those who are often socially and economically isolated by their lack of English, and who haven’t engaged with English for speakers of other languages classes in the past.

The winning ideas provide a solution to those with poor levels of spoken English who may also have been held back by classes in far off venues, formal, classroom-based learning or a lack of childcare facilities.

The winning entrants, their project name and summary of their ideas are:

Manchester Adult Education Services ‘#TalkEnglish’

Covers Manchester city and all priority local authorities in Lancashire and Yorkshire. Lessons focused on practical language skills such as voluntary work, participation in residents’ associations and training local shop staff as ‘sympathetic listeners’ to encourage learners to try out their English. They will also use a “Talk English Friend” scheme: 1-to-1 mentoring with a local volunteer to improve the confidence of the most isolated learners.

London Local Education Authorities Forum for the Education of Adults ‘Speaking English with Confidence’

Covers 15 priority London boroughs. Learning through practical skills, eg IT literacy, keeping up-to-date with local news and talking to children’s teachers. Learners will be involved in designing the course themselves and relevant course material will be based on their lives. A London-wide network of informal conversational language clubs will also be developed.

e3 Partnership ‘English through Social, Economic and Community Action’

Covers 5 priority London boroughs. Learners to participate in enterprise programmes such as running market stalls, volunteering with community projects and social activities – such as cooking or gardening. Learners will also volunteer with community projects and engage in activities such as parenting classes, play groups and homework clubs. A strong reliance on new technology will have a positive impact on future language learning.

FaithAction ‘Creative English’

A national bid covering all DCLG’s priority areas. Classes to be run through the faith sector and delivered in familiar local venues across 5 separate faiths. This will support social learning activities such as role play of daily activities, for example, visiting local attractions, using public transport and joining a library. This work will bring learners together across faith boundaries and improve community integration.

TimeBank ‘Talking Together’

Focusing on Birmingham and Leicester. Teaching focused on everyday English and based around practical themes and activities which are attractive to learners, for example, talking to school staff or using the internet. The programme will also develop close links with local businesses through employees volunteering to work with projects.

Tinder Foundation ‘English My Way’

Covers 25 national areas including 21 priority areas. This will make use of ‘learning circles’ in community venues, online centres to increase digital literacy skills for learners and opportunity for learners to progress to being advocates for the programme within their communities creating a ‘domino effect’ and leading to greater employment opportunities.

Further information

The priority areas in London are:

  1. Brent
  2. Camden
  3. Ealing
  4. Enfield
  5. Hackney
  6. Hammersmith and Fulham
  7. Haringey
  8. Harrow
  9. Hounslow
  10. Lambeth
  11. Newham
  12. Redbridge
  13. Tower Hamlets
  14. Waltham Forest
  15. Westminster

Priority areas outside London are:

  1. Birmingham
  2. Blackburn with Darwen
  3. Bradford
  4. Bristol
  5. Hyndburn
  6. Kirklees
  7. Leicester
  8. Luton
  9. Manchester
  10. Oldham
  11. Pendle
  12. Rochdale
  13. Sheffield
  14. Slough

The 2011 Census showed that 1.7% of people in England have either no or poor spoken English. The London Borough of Newham has the largest proportion of residents with no or poor spoken English at 9%.

5% of the population do not speak English as a first language (rising to 9% in London) but this doesn’t take into account the level of proficiency in English as a second language.

In December 2012, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles published 50 ways to save: examples of sensible savings in local government which recommended councils “Stop translating documents into foreign languages: Only publish documents in English. Translation undermines community cohesion by encouraging segregation. Similarly, do not give community grants to organisations which promote segregation or division in society.”

Read a written ministerial statement by Eric Pickles on the use of translation services by local authorities.

It is anticipated that the winning ideas will eventually be rolled out on a larger scale as they have all proved they can be sustainable over the long term.

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