After a brief pause in services, Action Language switched from the classroom to remote learning after the COVID19 Pandemic hit – but how are things going now we’re into September?
We caught up with Action Language Project Manager Nicola Brooks to see what’s been happening for the team of staff, volunteers and learners and how things are progressing…
We started zoom classes in June, and have gone from 20 learners in the first week to a steady 80 in August! We’re so grateful to all the volunteer teachers and assistants involved, it’s great to be able to support learners with regular contact and language sessions – each session is now around 1 hour, and Pre-entry to Entry 3 learners can join twice per week, Levels 1 and 2 once per week.
This is still fewer classes than we had in our schools, however, as demand continues to creep up we will start new classes. These learners, and others who have internet access but for various reasons can’t join zoom classes can also do activities from our website. Ruth, Sue and a fantastic mini-team of volunteers have been uploading these activities (keeping things as simple as possible, so it’s similar to a worksheet with limited clicking for lower levels!)
Many of our learners struggle with internet access, either due to lack of smart devices or digital literacy, or simply lack of data connection. We’ve topped up phones etc to the value of £460 so far, and others will have used phone credit from the covid support we did earlier in lockdown.
However, there is still a lot to do to help learners access remote learning.
In the meantime, we have started one-to-one phone calls, weekly between a volunteer and a few learners. This covers some basic conversation and language practice, and is a good connection for any other issues or problems to be passed on. Volunteers have fed back that confidence is increasing with every call, so we hope to be talking to more learners soon.
We are also posting everyone a notebook, pen and pencil, level appropriate worksheets, and information sheet, so they have the resources to work at home and zoom teachers can ask learners to make notes. We’re also including a face mask, or extras for all the family if needed – further thanks to our volunteer stitchers who have been making these!
However, this means we don’t have full details for all the learners, and it is much harder to assess needs well.
We do have some good news for lower level learners, as through Newcastle City Council we have been awarded some funding for ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) for integration, specifically aimed at pre-entry and entry 1 level learners. This has allowed us to recruit a new coordinator who will work with community centres to engage learners and support them to join classes.
Over the summer, in order to get people learning as quickly as possible, we have been taking basic details and doing quick level assessment over the phone. Our next step for September and October will be to complete registration and more standardised level assessment with all the current learners as well as taking on new ones.
We will continue with remote language learning for the moment, but to support lower level learners, we hope to be able to do some face to face registration and assessment in the coming months, both in our school and in community settings. This is very much dependent on Covid restriction, so more to follow on this as we get up and running.
For now, welcome to Ian Raby, our new ESOL coordinator! Ian has volunteered with Action Language on his visits back to the UK in the past, and we’re very pleased he will now be a more permanent presence.
We want to thank our volunteers for all their support, whether that has been Covid deliveries, language support or simply good wishes, it is truly appreciated and we could not have got through this without them.