RaPAL

Research and Practice in Adult Literacy – a friendly group

Yuliya Yankova

Yuliya Yankova, South Grove Primary Family Learning

For people like me, who came to the UK from another country, it is very important to improve their language, to be able to work and participate appropriately in the English community.

South Grove School offered to parents many different courses to help them in their everyday life. I had a chance to attend all these courses with absolutely no cost for me.

They gave me an opportunity to learn English and maths and to gain new skills as a teaching assistant. All the teachers were trained, competent and friendly professionals, who were able to respond to everyone’s needs.

I am very happy that I participated in all those classes because I found lots of good friends from all over the world and the most important is that I am able to communicate freely with all of them.

Tutor Perspective: Brigid Montgomery

South Grove Primary Family LearningLearning Together Project

This project aims to improve the educational attainment and aspirations of the extended family members of South Grove Primary school and offers opportunities to increase their confidence through a varied learning offer thus increasing a sense of community cohesion and an improved adult knowledge of local training, learning and volunteering. Our school is situated in Markhouse ward in Walthamstow, East London and the ward is in the top 5% of multiple deprivation nationally. There are forty-four different community languages spoken in the school. Many of our families face complex challenges relating to isolation, mental health, poverty, language, fear of crime and emotional and social issues. As a school our primary aim is to raise the literacy and numeracy of children but we recognise the vital role of parents in supporting their children’s learning too.

Our project has offered a variety of classes and sessions including Adult literacy, ESOL, Parenting, Family English, and Childcare and teaching assistant courses, Family Yoga, African dance and drumming, Tai Chi, Gardening, Circus skills and a book celebrating our diverse cultures. Some of the softer options act as a hook to encouraging people to try something new with their children or other adults. We always consult and speak with parents/learners about learning pathways that they may find useful. Using this information and local health, crime and educational data helps us to plan our activities. This makes it easier to respond to local need. We work in partnership with adult providers like the WEA and Waltham Forest adult learning to provide classes and then identify pockets of funding which enable a variety of active and more creative sessions for families. This is an on-going process.

We use a mobile classroom within the school for classes and we provide a creche where possible to enable parents to engage in learning as soon as their youngest child is one year old. This has meant that the adults feel comfortable as they know the school building and that childcare is offered to encourage early engagement with learning. Word of mouth works well when promoting classes as well as flyers etc which are publicised locally.

The outcomes from this project are very noticeable. School staff report better and closer communication with families. There has been an increase in parents volunteering to help with school activities, new friendships have been formed and there is a greater focus on learning. However, it is the outcomes for the learners and their families that is most obvious. Some learners have progressed from ESOL classes to working as teaching assistants in primary and secondary schools. Others have progressed to college courses in hairdressing and office skills. Some have gone on to work in retail and catering. Two learners completed a training course which means that they volunteer to host English conversation classes for other newly arrived parents.

Adults who attend our classes have had a variety of difficult life experiences including domestic violence, depression, asylum seeking, challenging previous relationships with schools and education which has impacted on their confidence but the retention and development of the learners within this project is clear. There are a small group of learners who do not have even basic literacy skills and we are trying to engage with this group currently.

South Grove Primary Family Learning
It may be helpful to hear some of the feedback we have had.

Parent who completed a parenting course,

“This course should be taken by ALL parents, not just because it reassures you that some of the things you are doing are correct but it also gives you the skills and tools to work with your children in this community and time, which may be so different from the one you grew up in. This parenting class taught me more about the different cultures which make up this community and the similarities with regards to our families and the problems we may have with our children. Now that I have completed the course; I am more empowered and prepared to work with my children on any issue and I’m looking forward to helping them develop into positive and strong individuals.”

Conversation with JR aged 8 (after a course of Family Juggling) that she completed with her mother who has had mental health issues,

“At the beginning my mum couldn’t even catch a ball. She learnt how to catch and throw a juggling ball. I learnt how to juggle with two balls, walk on stilts, balance on the pedals…..My favourite is the diablo and we learnt to do the wavy things with scarfs.

You could play on anything and James (the teacher) was really nice and you could ask him anything and even if you did not ask he would see that you needed help. My mum and me learnt from him. Most of all it was just really good fun and it meant my mum did something with me.”

Comment from adult volunteer,

“I can not believe how much I have learnt here. I can now speak and write English. I have made friends and know that I can do anything. My husband always said that I had a worm in my brain which made me stupid. This is not true. I want to help this school and other women.”

I would like finally quote one of the learners from the book,

“Secondly, I would like to thank my friends who helped me on this project and for sharing a wonderful moment together”

We are determined to share many more moments within this school community.
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