by our CEO, Duncan McAuley

We have made the difficult decision to significantly reduce the size of the Language project for this academic year and beyond.  This decision is not one we have taken lightly and we recognise the gap it will leave for many learners who will no longer be able to access the learning, support and friendship the classes provide. Sadly, it has not been possible to maintain the significant funding required to run the service at the scale we have for previous years.

With reductions to the size of the provision, we have also had to reduce the number of staff in the team and in September we will be saying goodbye to Ruth, Sue and Maria. I want to take this opportunity to thank them for their commitment, energy and significant contribution to the lives of the many clients they have served over the years and indeed to the organisation itself.

Nicola Brooks, the project manager, will still be running the service and will be recruiting a part time role to oversee the delivery of the classes themselves. This academic year will start from September 19. We will be running classes from The CastleGate in Newcastle on a Monday and a Tuesday and from the Edmundson building in Sunderland on a Wednesday morning (starting on September 21). This will be supplemented by online classes throughout the week. As before, classes will be led by volunteer teachers and teaching assistants and run during term time. Enrolment has already begun for learners, and we will continue to manage demand and waiting lists over the coming weeks as we reshape this vital service.

It is always extremely difficult to be reducing an important service to our clients and one which has been, for more than ten years and remains, one of our core services. It is my commitment, shared by the board and leadership, that we will continue Language provision and are actively looking for opportunities to develop what we can offer in a sustainable and measured way. As well as our provision of classes, we are continuing our work towards an ESOL Coordination Enrolment and Advice Service, working with other providers to ensure learners can more easily access the right course for their level of English and progress to accredited courses as soon as they are ready.

As we reflect and learn from this difficult process, I want to thank those who have given their time, energy, skills and knowledge to our Language service over the past years, many of whom I’m sure will continue to do so in the future. This fantastic service would not be possible without the commitment of our staff team, but equally so, it depends on the generosity and contribution of our many volunteers. This contribution is one on which we will continue to rely in the coming months as we work through this difficult transition and move forward into the year ahead.

Duncan McAuley