Developing language, building integration
With over 200 learners, Brushstrokes is one of the largest providers of ESOL in the Smethwick area. Staffed by a dedicated and enthusiastic team of volunteer teachers and classroom assistants and a qualified ESOL Coordinator, we provide courses ranging from compete beginners to academic IELTS.
We have no criteria for acceptance onto any of our ESOL courses but prioritise asylum seekers wherever possible. Our largest ESOL cohort is always beginners and we encourage learners to access college provision when they feel confident to do so. ESOL courses range from beginners to Entry 3 including a phonics class to help people with no reading skills.
Brushstrokes is an accredited ESB centre www.esbuk.org . Learners can work towards ESB exams but these are not compulsory. As an exam centre we welcome learners form other organisations to take exams with us and this number is growing. We receive no government funding for any of our ESOL provision.
Classes run from Monday to Thursday throughout term time. Initial registration and assessment is done the first week in September and the first week in January. We usually fill classes very quickly and run a waiting list. An additional Entry 1 class is currently being taught at Smethwick Baptist Church.
The ability to speak and understand English is the most important component in enabling individuals to be able to build strong relationships in the local community. Our community based ESOL continues to help individuals in their process of integration , as Alexandra one of our students says , “I can talk to my neighbours and now I can talk to new people in the park when I take my children.”
Life in the UK
We run a Life in the UK class runs every Wednesday from 10 – 11.30am. This course runs for two terms and prepares people for the Life in the UK test. We use comprehensive resources and multimedia to bring the course to life and help people understand the, often, bewildering amount of information they need to learn. Learners should be at Entry 2 or Entry 3 to access this course.
IELTS (International English Language Testing System)
Overseas professionals need to get good pass marks in academic IELTS tests in listening, speaking, reading and writing to be able to gain registration to work in the health sector in the UK. Working with the USE-IT project we currently provide IELTS classes at an academic level for overseas health professionals wishing to continue practicing in the UK. We also run a conversation/discussion group for people to practise spoken English.
Through our work club, volunteering, partnership with NHS Learning works and IELTS provision individuals have been given hope and help to move closer to employment . This is especially true for the migrant health professionals we are working with, recognition of the skills they have , which are needed by the local health service, we have secured funding to deliver free IELTS classes to help them move towards work in the profession they are skilled in.
T comments, “You created a CV and uploaded it and helped me search for jobs, built my confidence so I am ready for work and I got a job and you helped me with transport.”
As part of the ESOL year we have regular visits from outside speakers and we take part in projects such as running an election as part of Parliament Week and a multi-faith project. We also have social get togethers, trips, an annual certificate presentation and big Christmas party.
It is so rewarding to see learners grow in confidence as their language skills improve and they develop the ability to communicate in English on a daily basis. A huge part of ESOL classes is the social aspect and many friendships made in class continue long after people have left. Breaking down language barriers and breaking down barriers of isolation is an important part of what we do.