In 2012, ASHA started to run regular English classes for asylum seekers, using trainees on the Trinity Cert TESOL teaching course at Keele University. This was set up by Godefroid Seminega and Barbara James.
Asylum seekers started queuing outside as early as 7 am for this ‘first come first served’ class, and it soon became apparent that a system was required. Now, there are two classes a week with a limited number, a waiting list, and a team of volunteer one to one tutors working with the literacy cases and those awaiting classes. At the time that the Keele University/ASHA classes started, the word that ASHA existed spread, and many more service users came through the door, which was what we always wanted. This was particularly important for men, as the women’s group was already up, running and successful at that time.
ASHA and Keele University Language Centre pride themselves on the amazing relationships and community spirit they have built through the English programme regular classes. Students at Keele gain skills and attributes from their contact with asylum seekers, and asylum seekers respond well to students teaching them, as they are aware they are “helping” the students to teach.
On Friday mornings (and at other times too) the centre is busy with one to one tutors trying to find a ‘space’ to teach and help people learn English through conversation. There are so many different needs – holding a conversation in a shop to filling out a form for a schoolchild – that there is endless work required to meet the English asylum seekers need to fit into British society.