Our participants

Our participants are all people who have English as an Additional Language and are living in London. Our ESOL community are diverse and have speakers of a range of different languages including Amharic, Arabic, Bengali/Sylheti, Dari, Pashto, Polish, Spanish, and Urdu.

Our participants are often unable to access publically funded ESOL for a variety of reasons. Where possible, we encourage our participants to access an ESOL course at their local college as well as attend our course, or to progress to one when our course ends. However, eligbity criteria of many colleges often exclude many of our participants. Others are also excluded because they can’t afford to pay for childcare while they study. There are also often long waiting lists to subscribe to courses.


Case Study 1: Tuba

Tuba is part of our Surrey Square School in Walworth, Southwark.

She came to the UK aged 18, over 40 years ago, and although her speaking and listening is almost perfect, she has never had the opportunity to learn to read and write English. She cares for her elderly, disabled mother and her ten grandchildren. Everyday, she gets up in the dark and buses it across London to look after three of her grandchildren when her daughter-in-law leaves for work at 6am.

Now that she attends an ESOL class every week she is starting to make progress. Tuba’s ESOL class is practically the only time in the week she can call her own. She would probably not be eligible for a place in a publically funded course as she’s not on active benefits and is not able to get paid employment. She would also struggle to pass the exams necessary to progress a level a year, as required in many colleges now.

Tuba is an inspiration to her teacher and classmates.

Case Study 2: Muna

Muna is a member of our new class at Highgate School, Battersea. She joined the class when it started in January 2013. Muna is Somali and is a single parent with two sons at the school. She has been in London for around ten years but had only basic speaking and listening skills when she joined the course.

Muna is a natural leader. She’s attended nearly every class and is always willing to share her stories and experiences. She’s also been making great progress with her English. She was particularly pleased with a poem that she wrote: she said that she hadn’t expected to be able to do the exercise at all and was really satisfied with what she achieved.

This year, we’ve supported Muna to look for work. We helped her fill out a (lengthy) job application form and wrote references for her. In July 2013 she got a job as a carer. She has since discussed with us the unreasonable hours that her employer is asking her to work and has negotiated a new start time with him. Muna also told us about people who’ve been charging Somali migrants to act as referees on their passport applications. As a result of her highlighting this problem, our participants know that they shouldn’t have to pay for referees and that their children’s teachers or ESOL teachers may be a better option for such things.

At the end of the year Muna passed her Entry level 3 reading exam. She also made a valuable contribution to the end of year course evaluation and planning session for next year. 

Participants’ own words

Ezekiel Oluwasheun: “My name is Ezekiel and I’m from Nigeria. I’m here to tell you about an ESOL course that I joined two months ago through a friend from my church and since I’ve been coming I’ve gained more than what I expected, because I’ve gained more skills. I like the course because of the skills I learnt from it and the people of different cultures that have make friends with such as Alessandro and others. My coming here have improved my reading, the way I speak English and most especially my bravery about the way I speak.”

Stephanie Ogundolie: “My name is Stephanie and I joined the Surrey Square ESOL class in January 2012. I found out about the course through my daughter who studies there. The students are friendly and the teachers are excellent, it’s a privilege studying under them, the environment is conducive for learning and at break-time we are offered tea and coffee. We had fun when we were taken out for a trip on Thames River.”

Hong Ling: “I first came in the UK in 2002 because my husband was working here so I moved to be close to him. I first joined the class in January 2010 and I thought it was really difficult as I didn’t speak English very well.When I came in this class the teacher, volunteers and other students helped me to learn English and throughout the years I have made lots of friends and now thanks to them my English has improved.”

Josephine Neria: “My name is Josephine Neria and I first came in the UK on the 14th February 2004 and it was good. I first joined the English classes in 2008 and it helped me so much because I didn’t know very much when I first came but now I am happy to say I know more thanks to the help the classes gave me and supported me morally and financially until I got my papers. Now I am very very happy to come to the class and meet all the friendly people from other countries and cultures.”

Iuliana Serbuca: My name is Iuliana Serbuca. I come from Romania and I first came in the UK in December 2009 as my husband was working here and me and my children wanted to be close to him. I first joined the ESOL classes in Greenwich in February 2010. When I first came I was nervous as I didn’t know too much English and I just wanted to go home but I stayed as someone persuaded me to and I am happy that I did so as I now have a better understanding and I know more thanks to the help teachers put in to teach me and to the many volunteers that came and worked with me and the other students.”

George Serbuca: “My name is George Serbuca and I am a student at The John Roan School. My first encounter with English For Action was when my mum first came to the classes and I was invited to come in the half term holiday to the class and take part in activities for children. I enjoyed coming to those activities as many of the other parents had their children coming and it was a very good time to spend. I have also done work experience for two week at the end of year 10 for English For Action and I have helped Dermot out in teaching his students in the different schools and this has given me an idea of how hard it can be to teach the students but how proud you can feel after. This experience has given me the opportunity to meet many people with different cultures and from different countries that have enjoyed learning English.”

Loredana Ursachi: “My name is Loredana and I want to begin by specifing one thing, manely that this project is very important for us, those who really want to learn English. I have only praise for our teacher. He challenge us to speak English better and that makes it a very professional way of showing his experience gained since practicing with people from foreign countries for many years. This program takes place in premises of schools, and it make me to be gratefu. I can say I am glad that from hour to hour we acumulate more and more knowledge in English. We will be very happy to have more people coming into our classes to enjoy with us.”