At Southern Regional College (SRC), we have been delivering English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) lessons to migrant learners for nearly 15 years. During this time, we have also engaged with multiple EU projects to not only help learners on their journey to language proficiency for work and life, but also for staff and the wider student body to become more aware of the barriers to engagement and integration that migrant learners face on a daily basis.
Learning for Living Together
The two-year Learning for Living Together project, which ended 31 August 2019, set out to deliver an innovation and exchange of good practice for an adult learning project. In conjunction with international partners in the UK, Republic of Ireland, Latvia, Italy and Sweden, the project partnership developed an online equality and diversity programme supporting migrant, refugee and asylum seeker communities.
A key feature of this project is a series of short films in which those escaping poverty, persecution or violence describe their experiences and why they came to Europe in their own words. The project was carried out during a very politically unstable time in Northern Ireland during which time an unprecedented number of refugees arrived in Northern Ireland as part of the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (SVPRS); as of August 2019 there have been a total over 1,549 arrivals. The course will now be offered to our own learners as well as community and industry clients of the College.
Learning for Living
This Learning for Living Together project was an extension of a Learning for Living project, which ran from 2011 to 2013. During this project, staff and teachers from Italy, Finland, Scotland and Northern Ireland gained a much deeper understanding of the issues facing migrant workers and their families who come to their host country. This project also provided learners from ethnic minority communities with a pathway to improve their knowledge and competences around language learning and provide them with added support.
From this project, there has been a lasting impact not only on our curriculum and delivery model but also in the content of which is delivered to learners. To gain a better understanding of the learners’ needs, we asked participants what language they would liked to have been taught when they first arrived in their host country. From this, the learners developed an eight-week language course, which is available in English, Italian and Finnish.
Using these insights, the College has embedded pre-entry level ESOL classes which are a core-part of our curriculum provision and have greatly helped support the recently arrived SVPRS learners with little to no English language proficiency. Furthermore, the lessons generated by the learners on this project have been further enhanced and updated for the SVPRS learners to better reflect their immediate language learning needs.
All the work on these projects and the invaluable outcomes follows decades of work on other projects. For example, our first project to engage with the newly arrived migrant learners in our catchment area was the VOICE project which helped influence the migrant strand of the award winning Transforming Learning Communities project during which time we also coordinated the STEMS project. All of this work follows and builds on decades of work on peace and reconciliation projects in our own very deeply divided society. These projects and what came before have and will continue to have a major impact on College life thanks to a succession of highly engaged, experienced and motivated staff picking up and carrying the work where others have left off.
Going forward, whatever the outcome may be, we can only hope that we retain access to this critical EU funding that changes so many lives.
Southern Regional College
Southern Regional College (SRC) is a further and higher education college in the southern region of Northern Ireland and the largest outside Belfast. It is made up of several campuses located in Northern Ireland, including Armagh, Banbridge, Kilkeel, Lurgan, Newry and Portadown. For further education provision, the college delivers Level 2 traineeships, apprenticeships, extended diplomas and A-level courses through both part- and full-time programmes. It also provides over 80 full-time higher education courses and over 1,300 courses on a part-time and recreational basis. The college has a dedicated External Funding and International Team through its international programme, and proactively promotes social inclusion and reconcilation. It aims to widen access and increase participation to marginalised groups and individuals, to empower them, and develop their capacity to engage with the community and adult learning.
You might also be interested in:
- Erasmus+ Migrants and Refugees as Re-builders – Case study of Naida Begovic (resource) – a case study for an Erasmus+ project that describes the experience of an educator also from a similar background which provides a touching and meaningful insight
- Public libraries and their roles and work in inclusion and learning (blog) – summary of an Erasmus+ study visit to Norwegian libraries to learn about Norway's approach to library provision and to discuss the library as a public arena of inclusive learning
- The importance of accredited online training in cultural awareness for trainers working with ethnic minority groups (blog) – discusses a new transnational partnership that aims to educate trainers working with minority groups
- Technology supporting neurodiverse students in college – maximising talent and improving retention (blog) – covers the prevalence of learning difficulties and disabilities among college students and discusses the Do-IT Profiler software –technology that supports neurodiverse students to help them reach their potential