Published 28th May 2020

Teaching ESOL during lockdown

Adele Belecova, Community Organiser and Trainer at English for Action reflects how they have adapted their ESOL classes during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that their students have been able to access education to ensure that they can remain safe and protected.

At English for Action we migrated our ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) online from the first week of the lockdown. The advantage of it has been that some students, who had found it unable to come to the classes in person are now able to join them online. One student, for example, was moved away from London into temporary accommodation and the change in delivery has enabled her to come.

Unfortunately, some students have been unable to join the classes. This is due to a number of reasons; one of which is digital poverty. We have tried to help students by buying the internet for them, however, despite this, a lack of digital skills has proved an insurmountable barrier for some. Having the appropriate technological resources has also not helped those, who live in overcrowded housing, and were unable to join due to lack of space.

We have worked hard to ensure that as many students were able to join as possible. We made instructional videos on how to download and set up Zoom in different languages and provided technical support on the phone.

Our online lessons have, as always, been centred around our students lives. We have spoken about mental health during the lockdown, the difficulties of home-schooling and having children at home all the time without being able to go outside much. Work and housing have also been prominent topics. We looked the government’s job retention scheme and its conditions and rules, practised writing a letter to ask a company for re-employment after being made redundant, looked at rules and vocabulary around evictions and practised writing a letter to landlords to ask for a suspension of rent payments. Migrants rights has also been a common topic in our classes. We have been sharing the teaching resources we have developed with the wider community.

Throughout this crisis, we have been in regular contact with our students through the classes as well as on WhatsApp and on the phone. Through this, we have learned of the effects the crisis is having on our students. Here, same as it has done across the UK, the crisis has exposed inequalities that exist in society. Many of our students bear the brunt of these.
Adela Belecova, Community Organisers, English for Action

The inequality is stark in terms of rights people get dependent on their immigration status. For example, a number of our students have found themselves in dire situations as they are unable to access the financial support provided by the government, due to the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ attached to their visa. To support students in these circumstances, we have been helping them to pay for basic necessities, such as food and utility bills.

At EFA, we believe that community organising can help to battle the injustices that are taking place. To further our students’ knowledge of this method we have been running an online training in community organising. During this training we have looked at the steps that make up its process, talked about the importance of listening and defined power.

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