Today is #WorldRefugeeDay Refugees fleeing war and persecution find the support they need at English higher education institutions.
This world refugee day we caught up with staff at Harrow College London, where they led a brand new qualification, now delivered nationwide, which emerged after one woman’s experience as the country prepared for Brexit.
“ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) is not enough.” Explains Thérèse Lorphevre of Harrow College.
Therese is Head of School at London College. She has lived in the UK for over 35 years, is married to an Englishman and, among other subjects, she teaches English.
Therese explained: “As the UK prepared for Brexit, I had to prepare to become a British citizen.
“In 2016 I had to go through the process to make sure I could continue to live and work here after Brexit. So while I was going through the process, studying for the citizenship test, I decided to test these citizenship questions with my husband who is British and with friends who are British and… no one could answer these questions!
“I thought, wow, what about my students who weren’t born here? If there was an accredited course, it would give them a competitive advantage, it would help them settle in better here, in a totally new environment. Because most of our students come from outside the EU.
“So that’s how the idea of creating Live and work in the UK qualifications. Gateway Qualifications is always open to new ideas, but at the heart of this initiative was something much more important: at Harrow College, we have always believed that in order for our students to progress in their education and employment, and be fully integrated into the UK. society, and make sufficient language progress…they need to do more than just English (ESOL).
Therese approached Gateway Qualifications, and about eight months later, after the program gained national accreditation through Ofqual (Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation), Harrow College enrolled its first students.
Live and work in the UK The qualifications now help refugees understand the culture, expectations and standards of living in Britain. There are different levels and as students progress different subjects are introduced.
Liz Njuguna-Wyatt is Head of ESOL at Harrow College, she also teaches Live and work in the UK, she said, “At Entry Level 2, we look at religion, customs and culture. It’s really interesting to teach, because it gives you the opportunity in class to focus on the subject and the knowledge, and the language follows.
“We develop people’s language alongside interesting topics, and we’re able to ask – have you been to those places? Do you know who these people are? What do you know about art and culture? What books have you read or what movies have you seen? »
Ameeta Jethwa is a section leader who teaches at the higher levels of Live and work in the UK. She said: “A lot of our students come to us with top qualifications. They have diplomas from their country of origin; they have acquired professional experience in their country of origin – some are doctors and scientists. But there are barriers here, and it’s not just language. At level 2, students have sufficient command of English, but they have no work experience here.
One of the biggest obstacles for refugees is that they can’t find jobs because they don’t have experience.
“It’s a cycle they can’t get out of,” Ameeta says. “So we work on their CVs, help them develop their interview skills and find volunteer opportunities – we work with museums, art galleries, shops, within the college, in the health, invite speakers from the Houses of Parliament, etc.
“We arrange interviews with people from the industry who volunteer their time so that our students can have a one-on-one interview experience in a real-life setting. It’s a great experience for them.
Thérèse added: “I was not born here and I have lived in many countries. One thing Britain does very well is providing access to education beyond secondary education: further and higher education. The fact that people can start a new career or a job later in life is wonderful.
“Yes, there are options. Unfortunately, these options can often be expensive. This is why it is so important for the government to support and enable loans, reduced fees and fee waivers when people need education the most.
Harrow College is part of HCUC (Harrow College & Uxbridge College), the colleges merged in 2017 and this year had its first full post-merger Ofsted. Five out of eight domains were deemed “exceptional”. One of these outstanding areas was the quality of education.
Therese explained: “It was nice to see, to understand that you are the ‘best of the best’ in terms of intent, for example, how you sequenced the program, its implementation and its impact – It was is basically to include ‘other qualifications.’ For example, the qualifications that have been written in conjunction with Gateway.The additional qualifications that make such a big difference to students’ prospects in terms of further education and employment…this are the Gateway qualifications.
Currently at Harrow College, Therese’s team works with over a thousand refugees and the success of this program has garnered national attention. Five years after its launch, it is now running in 34 colleges and training providers nationwide.
Thérèse is delighted, she says: “It’s a great success, it’s almost a showdown, isn’t it? It was a success here and it was obviously a success elsewhere because these qualifications were used by other providers, which was always the intention.
“We make such a big difference in people’s lives, and that’s why we all do it.”
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