Learning English brings the community together

9th December 2021

The Lake District has become a prime location to not only reside but also visit. The popularity of rural locations has resulted in a surge in demand for staycations.

However, the coronavirus pandemic cost Cumbria’s visitor economy a staggering £2 billion and led employment in the sector to shrink by 38,000, according to Cumbria Tourism.

Prior to the pandemic, South Lakeland had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the UK. Hospitality and tourism are the biggest employers. Given that the working-age population is shrinking, many of these businesses are reliant on migrant workers. There are some hotels in the Lake District where migrants make up more than half the workforce.

Accessing English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes is often a really important part of integration, building skills and feeling part of a community. Gaining the qualification demonstrates good speaking, writing, listening, and reading skills in English. It helps improve social interactions and everyday life and connects people into the community.

Learning Plus Ambleside is a self-help learning and community support charity, that aims to give confidence through learning. It offers a range of learning opportunities to give adults the basic skills they need to gain confidence, develop new skills, and where appropriate, move on into work, further education or training. It runs classes from Ambleside Library and teaches basic literacy, numeracy, ICT and ESOL in a friendly, relaxed environment.

In 2019, Learning Plus Ambleside received £2,000 from the Holehird Trust Fund and £1,400 from the Kipling Fund for Older People to support its work.

Its successful ESOL classes supports people living and working in South Lakeland. During the first lockdown, the tutor worked with 15 students some of whom were furloughed in Ambleside and some who were been sent home to their own countries with the offer of their jobs back when things opened up again.

The charity has also developed community information leaflets in Polish, Czech, Slovakian, Spanish and Hungarian. It continues to work in partnership with “All Together Now” a social and conversation group for people of different ethnic backgrounds based at Ambleside Parish Centre.

As a way of bringing the community together, the charity runs activities to bring together people of different ages and ethnicities. Its first trip was to Sizergh Castle in July 2019 and then at Christmas time, its ESOL students participate in the Ambleside annual Christmas Carol Service.

Catherine Powloski, Chairperson, said: “We have provided a useful service to people in our community through our workshops. Without this service people would have to travel to Kendal College, a 30-mile round journey, where many of the classes are at unsuitable times and incur high  travel costs. Many of the people who use our workshops do not have access to a car.

“During lockdown, our ESOL tutor, Richard, used WhatsApp video and emailing to keep in touch with young migrant workers. This has been a very worrying time for them.”