David Cameron and Community Cohesion
Over the past two years, FaithAction has been running our Creative English programme with the aim of building confidence and community cohesion. We’ve seen 2400 people through the course and some fantastic results, such as 81% went on to speak to their neighbours in English.
Coventry University has produced an evaluation showing how the programme works, and Baroness Williams shared on the importance of programmes like Creative English at our event in December. So it was excellent news when we heard the PM this morning announce the £20million fund focusing on delivering English language courses with an aim to deliver the results we have already seen in Creative English.
The article and speeches surrounding the announcement have been spun and conversations have started about Muslim women needing English… All I will say here is that through our Creative English programme, we have seen the difference that being equipped with conversational English has made to being part of communities.
When we started Creative English, then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles MP said, ‘If you can’t speak English, you can’t join in’, and the case studies below echo those sentiments:
Pavana is a 45-year-old Indian lady who has spent many years living in the north of Italy. English is not her second language – it’s roughly her fourth! And she’s only been in the country for about 8 months.
This week, she told me that she is much more confident in speaking English ever since she started. She has readily joined in and she really enjoys the class. She said she had used what she has learned at her children’s school, the optician, the doctor and the dentist. She was also able to tell me she had begun volunteering in the crèche at her local primary school.
“Amina” and her daughter “Mariam” arrived in the UK about 3 months ago straight from Afghanistan. They joined our Creative English class on the fourth session as we began lessons on health. Both were obviously keen to learn and seemed to enjoy the next session, again on health.
After a break for half-term, “Mariam” told us how her mother had spent a week in hospital following a heart attack. She had communicated with the medical and nursing staff using the English she had learned in those two classes. She was very proud of herself and it was noticeable how she had gained confidence in speaking English.
Since the start of 2014, FaithAction has delivered Creative English to 2,400 learners across the country in 36 faith-based and community organisations – using centres where those who need English already go or can feel comfortable. The course – written by Dr Anne Smith – focuses on increasing confidence and acting out scenarios to help improve language and having a lot of fun, hence our ‘Laugh your way to confident English’ tagline. The unorthodox approach has meant that 100% of those who have completed a 10-week programme have reported that their confidence with the English language has improved.
FaithAction welcomes the announcement by the Prime Minister. We agree that language can support integration and community cohesion and believe that it will go some distance towards tackling extremism.
All too often, faith groups are already delivering solutions that others are looking for – faith is often what’s going on underneath. And Creative English has proven that faith-based organisations and communities can, and do, deliver.