PEOPLE WITH PHYSICAL DISABILITIES
PEOPLE WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES
PEOPLE WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
LEARNERS IN PRISON
PEOPLE LIVING IN DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES
YOUNG PEOPLE OVERCOMING DISADVANTAGE
PEOPLE SEEKING EMPLOYMENT
Spanish at The Vine
The Vine is a church-run centre, opened in 1985. It provides a range of resources for the local area, including community languages and EAL teaching, but not foreign languages. It serves Hyson Green, a deprived multi-cultural area of mixed private and public housing, in inner-city Nottingham.*
Initial contact was made with the RW, Centre Manager, at the suggestion of BM, Education Officer, Nottingham City Council. R was enthusiastic about working with ALLEGRO and JN met the chairman of the centre’s governing committee.
JN worked closely with TW, the Manager of PALS [Play and Learn in Safely] the centre’s nursery. It was decided to offer language teaching to local parents who brought their children to PALS and then visited the Ark drop-in centre for a coffee and chat.
Publicity materials were provided by ALLEGRO and displayed in the centre, but some people heard of the classes by word of mouth. T took responsibility for practical arrangements within the centre and introduced the idea of language learning to the group.
CHOICE OF LANGUAGE
JN visited to meet the group, who were very clear that the language they needed was Spanish. Some went or intended to go to Spain on holiday and several already knew a few words. There was increased interest in Spanish in that period, following the transfer of David Beckham to Real Madrid.
R recommended CG as the teacher. She was fluent in Spanish, having worked in Uruguay for twelve years, and was already well known in the community. Although she did not have formal teaching qualifications, she had wide teaching experience and was following a City and Guilds Adult Education course.
There was an initial enrolment of ten and numbers remained fairly constant, with a few people joining and a few leaving, mainly because they obtained employment. The majority had difficult personal circumstances and poverty to contend with and would have been most unlikely to join a traditional language class. Some learners were mothers visiting the Ark, but some older learners also joined.
TIME AND PLACE
There were ten weekly sessions, each lasting 75 minutes. They met in the Ark, which meant that some parents were observers rather than full participants, occasionally joining in, and that young babies often interrupted proceedings. This arrangement meant there was a lot of noise and required a great deal of flexibility on the part of the teacher, but she decided to remain in the Ark, rather than in a side room, to maximise the impact of the lessons in the centre.
The approach was largely oral and based on language required for holidays. The teacher used a range of different resources, creating some specifically for the group. She made use of her experiences in Spain and South America, to widen the learners’ cultural knowledge. Detailed lesson plans are available. There was a wide variety of activities, including songs, games, videos, role-plays and discussion of cultural differences. Some language activities that parents could use with their children were included, but, as a number of older people were attracted to the classes, this aspect was less important than had been expected. There was an informal, supportive atmosphere, which made it possible for people to express any concerns they had. The learners made it clear how much they were enjoying the classes, saying,’ We are up for a bit of fun here,’ but they were also already able to express themselves confidently in a number of everyday situations.
WHAT WENT WELL
Learners’ views were sought informally and through an evaluation form. All said how much they had enjoyed the course and asked to continue. One said, ‘I’ve been looking for something like this for quite a time.’ Yet there are other courses for Spanish beginners available locally. What made this one innovative and popular were its accessibility and informality. Sessions were held in a place the learners were familiar with, at a time when they were usually there anyway, and babies were welcome! In addition there were no fees and so no requirement to apply for fee reductions.
The main difficulty was that the group wanted to continue, but the centre could not provide funding. Learners were provided with information about other local language learning opportunities, but as far as is known, nobody took these up. This seems to show the importance in an area such as Hyson Green of providing opportunities to learn in a familiar and easily accessible venue. Discussions are still taking place with the Vine, to see if another provider can be found, or if ALLEGRO can work in a different way with the centre.
Success was due to the support and enthusiasm of senior management and staff at the Vine and the fact that all involved knew clearly what was they wanted and what required of them. The teacher was already well known to many of the learners and her attitude was exceptionally flexible and encouraging. It was also very important that those who enrolled had a positive expectation that ALLEGRO would be able give them something they wanted.
* Of the 5 Super Output Areas within 500m of the Vine, 4 are in the most deprived 10%nationally, two in the most deprived 5%. The fifth is in the worst 20%.
Source: Index of Multiple Deprivation, Deputy Prime Minister’s Office.
Note: SOAs are small geographical are used for statistical purposes.