A small member centre with a big heart: West London English School provides free tuition to 90 refugees
West London English School (WLES) is one of English UK's smaller member centres - and yet in the past two years it has offered free tuition to around 90 refugees, sent to them by the charity RefuAid.
David Ellul, the school's director of studies said: "For a school of our size that is a significant number but that is part of the reason we decided to offer self-study packages. If it had been face-to-face courses in class we would not have been able to reach so many."
Partnership between West London English School and RefuAid
The partnership between WLES and RefuAid, the charity which helps refugees resume careers and education in the UK, began in early 2020. "I talked to our managing director about this, and it was one of the shortest conversations ever. He said yes, absolutely we need to be involved in this. We invited RefuAid over for a meeting and took it from there. We've always seen ourselves as part of the community and this was a way to put that into action and give something back."
IELTS and OET courses
To start with RefuAid clients were offered spare places on IELTS courses, but only a month after the partnership began the school had to shut because of Covid. WLES had been planning to create online self-study OET courses and created the material during the first lockdown. "We thought why not offer this to RefuAid? Theirs were the first students on the course and offered very useful feedback."
WLES developed two OET courses, one for exam preparation and the other focusing more on language improvement. They have given RefuAid clients access to both courses for six months, with an extension if necessary, though some clients breeze through all of the "dozens of activities and video lessons" in a week. The time taken very much depends on the amount of time each client has to dedicate to it, says David.
He is wholehearted in his recommendation of working with RefuAid. "They are very grateful, you don't feel it's a chore to work with them. They have been professional and they are very keen on letting you find a solution that works. The online OET doesn't take a lot of time and resources other than setting the course up. All it takes is for me to create accounts on our learning platform and send introductory emails. It maybe took me a couple of hours each month to do this."
"Some people might prefer face-to-face interaction and probably I would in an ideal world but with our manpower that was the situation we found. The bottom line is whatever works for you will probably work for RefuAid. I would recommend working with them without hesitation. Students who kept in touch were very grateful and we are happy to see them progress to the next stage of their career."
"We all know what's happening in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria and also the NHS and at times you can feel powerless in the face of all these crises. This is a way to make a difference empowering refugees to do something, take agency back and give back something to the country that's taken them in and I think that's one of the most satisfying things you can do. You don't often hear good news and this is the kind of thing that makes you think it's not all bad."
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RefuAid and English UK
RefuAid partners with UK language teaching centres to give their clients access to the language teaching they need to pass IELTS or OET exams, allowing them to continue their careers or education in the UK. The charity also provides loans enabling clients to get the UK accreditation and training they need to return to work.
More than 80 English UK member centres have supported over 600 RefuAid clients to get the IELTS or OET qualification they needed since the charity was founded in 2015.
RefuAid needs more centres to offer free places to its clients. If you can help, visit the RefuAid website for more information about becoming a partner school.