A Right to a Voice campaign
The purpose of the NIACE campaign is to:
- Reveal the impact of ESOL policy changes upon asylum seekers as a vulnerable group.
- Highlight the injustice and inefficiency of the current policy with regard to access to ESOL provision.
- Seek to change government policy in England regarding access to ESOL.
- Pilot approaches to providing ‘first aid English’ for newly arrived asylum seekers.
NATECLA welcomes the NIACE initiative A Right to a Voice: Survival English for Asylum Seekers in which the needs of asylum seekers are raised and which also reveals the impact of ESOL policy changes upon asylum seekers. We would fully support the development of a system of welcoming, orientation, befriending and mentoring of this vulnerable group especially in their first few months in the country. We know there are some good ‘Welcome to Britain ’ type schemes already working in practice and there is an opportunity to further develop these.
We are also aware that other charities use trained volunteers and as such would not have any objections to fully trained ESOL teachers offering their services to support asylum seekers in the first six months.
We do however need a very clear distinction between the roles of fully trained ESOL teachers supporting asylum seekers and the work of untrained volunteers. Anything that suggests unqualified teachers will be teaching English, undermining of the professional requirements would not be acceptable to NATECLA members.
We feel it the initiative needs clarification and see it as essential to separate the different roles of volunteer support and referral from that of teaching English. This will impact on the type of training that should be given to those who are not ESOL specialists. We are happy to work with NIACE to explore the training programme that will be needed for such volunteers which will be more of a signposting and supporting role.
We should continue to campaign for early and free access to the language for newcomers and to continue to seek to change government policy.