A charity with the motto "Communicate to Integrate" has been awarded one of the first Eddie Byers awards from English UK.
Oasis English Language School in Ipswich runs 90-minute classes two days a week, using volunteer teachers to help learners improve their skills. Learners are supported in other ways, for instance with a crèche for children.
Charity founder Linda Pepper says: "This grant enables us to buy books and meet some of the expenses of our volunteer teachers and know we can keep going for a while. It also tells us that other people out there think what we are doing is worthwhile.
"We ask our students to contribute £2 a week, because we want them to feel that what they are doing is worth something. They're getting 90 minutes of English a week for the price of a cup of tea."
Linda, who worked as a secondary school teacher, developed Oasis after working with international students as a chaplain at the University of Essex, and working with a tiny organisation providing casual conversational lessons.
The school runs on the boundary of two wards in Ipswich where the last census showed 20 per cent of residents could not speak English. Many of the learners are women from families which cannot afford conventional lessons.
The charity runs classes for learners of different levels, focusing on conversation but also supporting other skills. It encourages its learners to arrive early for lessons to get more English practice.
Last year, Oasis gave lessons to 120 students from 33 different nationalities, including many Kurds, Syrians, Bangladeshis, Portuguese as well as people from other European nations. The vast majority are women. So far, it has measured its effectiveness through user questionnaires as well as the remarks of local GPs, who have said they have less need of translation services as a result.
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