Learning English, My Experience: Angela Palmer

What does ‘Learning English’ mean to those behind the scenes of LEYH and LE+?

MESH development worker Angela Palmer tells us more about her experience working in the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) sector.

Tell us more about your role as a MESH development worker...

I work alongside the small, dedicated Migrant English Support Hub (MESH) team to develop new initiatives and ESOL teaching materials and maintain the Learning English in Yorkshire and the Humber (LEYH) website. The website currently provides information from over 135 ESOL providers listing over 150 classes in 229 locations across the region.

My role requires a firm understanding of English language learning policies and practices, particularly in the Yorkshire and Humber region. I originally moved to ESOL from English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teaching. I was most recently a lecturer at Wakefield College, teaching ESOL to groups of learners at every level.

Some of the challenges I face are...

In the EFL sector, class members were at a similar educational level. Within the ESOL sector, learners come from many different educational backgrounds. For example, the first language of some learners is not a written language, whereas other learners in the same class may have a degree. Therefore, it’s challenging to deliver class material that benefits everyone in the class.

In addition, many learners are navigating significant changes and trying to build new lives in an unfamiliar environment. ESOL professionals are not simply delivering lessons but also finding ways to support each individual that signs up to learn. At MESH, we’re committed to helping individuals with their English learning needs, allowing them to follow more comprehensive progression pathways and broaden their opportunities.

Some of the challenges for ESOL learners are...

There are many reasons why people want to learn English. For some, it’s helpful to their everyday lives. Others are at a certain level but would like to gain official qualifications. In some cases, the learner may have started a course in one region and need to continue learning in another. The transition to learning in different regions can be difficult because ESOL classes are unique to the area and do not follow a standardised pathway.

As I mentioned above, supporting individuals with their overall needs is a factor in their successful progression. At MESH, we look at how we can help learners on a regional level – but we’re also considering how we can standardise our approach to regionally specific resources to benefit other regions.

Why MESH, LEYH and LE+ are important...

When I discovered MESH, it was a lightbulb moment. I can look at all ESOL providers and their actions with the MESH Resources Hub, and I have details to call them up and speak about students and the various progression pathways they can follow on finishing an ESOL course. Access to LEYH and LE+ has been a game changer due to the information available. I’m now committed to contributing to this resource for others.

Within a college setting, I have previously helped learners to expand their knowledge by identifying appropriate progression pathways. For example, a student who started a pre-entry level class at college with no English skills and very poor literacy progressed through to entry-level two, and during in-class conversations, they were identified as a baker by trade.

On learning this, our ESOL team collaborated with the college catering team and secured them a place on a catering course. Their English skills had progressed to the point where this was possible, and they are now working towards a catering qualification that will ultimately help to secure employment. They have also improved their English in a relevant environment, making learning more accessible.

While we were able to do this on a localised scale within the college, LEYH and LE+ helps ESOL professionals to identify related progression opportunities across the whole region. MESH can help individuals find courses to improve their English, and it is also building networks within communities, between community hubs, colleges and providers of courses that go beyond ESOL but that are still accessible to those with English support needs, such as childcare, driving theory and hospitality. This can lead to learners being able to build their English skills in the most meaningful way. This approach would be much more difficult without the availability of collective resources and a regional networking tool such as LEYH.

My top tip for those using LEYH and LE+...

Check out the Resources Hub on LE+! As an ESOL tutor, I found the resources area invaluable. ESOL resources are generally few and far between. To have everything in the Yorkshire and Humber region in one place is ideal. LEYH and LE+ are the only websites of their kind. Ultimately, it would be amazing for resources like these to be available across other regions, creating a national support network. I would also recommend that anyone with ideas or suggestions get in touch. MESH is continually developing its resources to benefit those seeking to learn English.

Check out Learning English Plus Resources.

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