Innovative ideas to lie at the heart of learning English

Published on Tuesday, 14 May 2013 12:52
Written by Scott Buckler

The submissions come as organisations compete for a share of a £6million fund to turn these ideas into reality and help people achieve their full potential

From community gardening projects, visits to museums and heritage sites, applying performance techniques or using conversation clubs, there was no shortage of original ideas submitted for the first stage of the competition.

The department received 130 entries ranging from educational organisations, voluntary groups, local authorities and charities. Other innovative ideas included themed clubs so that people can learn through their favourite subject, developing free multi-media learning materials or a smartphone app to teach English vocabulary and building autobiographies and personal experiences into the teaching process.

Fourteen of the best competition entries from across the country have been awarded with a development support grant of £6,000 each to help them prepare for the second stage of the competition. Applications will also need to prove that they can be financially sustainable once the funding has ended, can deliver value for money and demonstrate possible ways to generate future income.

This money will allow these organisations to develop their proposals to make them work on a bigger scale so that they can reach more people in communities and provide them with a vital and life-changing skill.

Some of the more traditional methods of teaching English in communities have not always been the most effective. They may not fit around child-care arrangements or could be conducted in an intimidating and impractical learning environment.

These new and fresh techniques will encourage those people, who may feel isolated in their neighbourhoods or lack confidence, to learn English so they can then get on in society and participate more fully in their communities. It is also envisaged that there will be a positive effect on the wider community too, as increased integration could benefit local businesses and public services.

To further encourage people to learn English the department has also published guidance to councils to stop translating documents into foreign languages, as this encourages segregation and undermines community cohesion. Instead, the focus should be on ensuring that people can learn to speak English and this competition is one way of helping communities to achieve this.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:

Learning English is crucial to enable people to get on in society. Without a fundamental grasp of our language every day tasks such as popping to the shops for a pint of milk, talking to parents at the school gates or helping children with homework can be very difficult.

It was terrific that so many organisations submitted such creative ideas for the competition - it shows that there is a real appetite for this in communities and that people think it is just as important as I do.

I want people to feel integrated in their communities, that they have a role to play and can make a real difference. It is crucial that people learn to read and write in English which is why I've also encouraged councils to stop translating documents into many different languages. Learning English has the power to change peoples' lives for the better.

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