Last year Emma MacIntosh, one of our community development workers in Glasgow, started an English class in Possilpark. The project is now almost a year old. Here are Emma’s reflections on the positive impact of the project:

The need for English classes became obvious at the beginning of last year when a local primary school teacher told us she was having difficulty communicating with parents of five children whose first language is Mandarin.

We wanted to support the parents by giving them the skills to communicate with the school.

A member of our church is qualified to teach ESOL, English to Speakers of Other Languages, and with the help of some volunteers we started the class as a pilot project. We focused on things like understanding school letters, homework and parents’ meetings.

There were only a few parents to begin with, but word spread around the school quickly. We’ve now reached a point where we have to turn people away because the class is over-subscribed.

The project is helping people who would otherwise be isolated to engage with the local community. Some of our learners attend our monthly Family Fun Nights and they also come along to coffee mornings and family days. Through these activities they are gaining confidence and are meeting people outside the Chinese community, something that they identified as being important to them.

Through the classes we are able to help people with basic but very urgent needs. One day a lady who attends the class approached me as she had received three letters from the council notifying her that her housing benefit had been stopped. Coming from Nigeria she knew that her lack of language skills prevented her from understanding the paperwork.

It was great that she had the courage to ask for help rather than hide the problem.

When I contacted her housing association I discovered that she had large amounts of rent in arrears. Her husband was in and out of work which meant that there were periods when housing benefit had been stopped. We arranged a meeting with the housing association and with the help of an interpreter we worked towards a solution.

All our classes are tailored to the needs of the learners so we really focus on developing the ability to get around the various systems like health, education or employment by encouraging people to bring in letters and paperwork that they need to understand but have trouble with.

The project has become a bridge for our learners to go and attend college. Many of the people who attended the classes last year have now enrolled on an English ESOL course at a local college. It’s great to see them getting to know new people and connecting with the local community.

If you need support like this or know of someone who does, you can contact Emma by emailing here.