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Action in the ESOL classroom

8 Feb

What does it mean to take action with students? How can we make sure actions are led by learners not by teachers? How can we discuss and plan action in the ESOL classroom without imposing on students who just want to learn English? This January, English for Action staff and volunteers met up to explore these questions and share our skills, tools and ideas.

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Speak English!

6 Feb

Lots of our students have noticed a rise of racism and xenophobia in recent times. Streatham in south London is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse parts of the city – at one time boasting more languages than anywhere in the UK.

Where better to discuss multi-lingual London? Our students in one of our Streatham classes were discussing languages in the community. One student told a story of a friend somewhere out of London who was in the supermarket, speaking Polish to her daughter, when someone came up to her and told her to “speak English”.

The following week we discussed the issue in greater depth using a technique called “problem-posing from a code”, which originates from Paulo Freire, one of our inspirations at EFA. Here is the code, which is a picture of the story from the week before: Continue reading

#LoveESOL Day

16 Feb

Jess Walker


On Monday 15th February, EFA held an ESOL celebration event organised by learners at Surrey Square School.

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“Government must keep funding ESOL” – a message from Surrey Square students

22 Oct

Jess Walker

“We are English for Action ESOL students and we all think that English is very important, not only for our lives, but also for the progress of the country. ESOL is cheaper than funding interpreting services. We don’t think the government would like us to sit idle at home instead of going to work because of our lack of English.

We students must not give up, or the government will keep cutting. We need your support!”

esol ssq

Students wrote this message together, sentence by sentence,  in class.ESOL

Success – Housing Action!

11 Sep

Elena* has borne some of the brunt of the housing crisis in London, along with many other students at EFA. Her, her husband and their three children were living in one small bedroom in a shared house with 13 others. The house had been flooded for a week and the landlord was not responding to Elena’s call for repairs.

The children were too scared to use the communal bathroom and kitchen because other tenants would shout and intimidate them. Anti-social shift patterns meant that there was constant noise in the house.overcrowded Housing

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EFA students and teachers protest together: adult education must not be cut.

30 Apr

“This is important” said Southwark student Razna on the way to the protest. “Today, they cut 24% but in five years, there will be nothing. Adult education, nothing”.

Indeed, the Association of Colleges (AOC) has made the same warning, predicting that “adult education and training in England will not exist by 2020 if the government continues with its swathe of cuts.”

This is why on Saturday 25th EFA students from Lambeth, Southwark and Wandsworth joined EFA teachers to march on City Hall. The Government has announced plans to cut adult education by 24%, on top of the cuts that have reduced adult education budgets by a third since 2010. Some of our students remember adult education before these cuts. “In 2007 the good thing was the [Further Education] college was free and the creche was free” remembers Samilla. “Now you have to pay for both of them not free”.

Here are some photo highlights from the day:

Displaying IMG_1110.JPG   Continue reading


8 Apr

Language is intensely political. The powers that be, from Catalonia to Khartoum, have a vested interest in what language their subjects speak. Throughout history people have resisted and fought for the right to speak their “mother tongue”. In Britain today establishment attitudes towards the UK’s linguistic diversity can be best characterized as grudging acceptance. According to recent research carried out by Dina Mehmedbegovic,  MPs from both sides of the house stress that languages other than English (and perhaps Welsh) belong “at home”.

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Making connections in the community

2 Dec

Recently we (the students of EFA Tower Hamlets class) wrote a letter to Lutfa Rahman (the Mayor of Tower Hamlets) about the crossrail being built in Whitechapel and our concerns about the effect it will have on the local area and the people who live there. We waited for a reply and then last week the equalities advisor to the mayor, Ruhana Ali, came to visit our ESOL class. The visit was very interesting and we asked her various questions about her job and discovered that she has been to visit over 30 community organisations in just 6 weeks. Now we are going to to come up with a specific plan of what we want to change in the community and hopefully at some point present it to the Mayor. We are pleased that our group are making new contacts in Tower Hamlets.

A reply from 10 Downing Street

4 Nov

A few weeks ago, the students at our Tower Hamlets class wrote a letter to David Cameron and Ian Duncan Smith about their views on workfare. Today we received a response from 10 Downing Street and the Department of Work and Pensions; this was great as we feel like we’re not being ignored.


However the contents of the letter have confused us slightly as it seems to deny that workfare exists, instead Continue reading

Students Against Workfare!

1 Nov

One of the students in our Tower Hamlets class brought up their fears about the introduction of workfare and these fears were echoed around the classroom. We decided to put aside the work we had planned and instead, worked on making  a pros and cons list about workfare. We then wrote a letter explaining our opinions and position and have posted it to the people involved in creating the scheme. Here’s the letter to read while we eagerly await a response.


Dear Mr Duncan Smith, Continue reading