Around 16% of the Oxford population have a main language that is not English, and 2000-3000 don’t speak English well or at all (2011 Census). However, English classes are unaffordable to many, especially to refugees, asylum seekers and members of disadvantaged communities, costing about £250 for 10 weeks. Language barriers can lead to isolation and entrench existing inequalities by restricting people’s ability to participate in their community, access services, find work and support their children (eg with homework).
FELLOW provides open and friendly English classes to individuals from disadvantaged communities, run by a volunteer team of local residents and university students. FELLOW enables language exchange that is mutually beneficial to learners and volunteers, with both developing new skills, gaining confidence and making new friendships and connections. For learners, these skills and connections will enable access to services and sources of support, increasing their social and financial security and improving their wellbeing. Funding would cover the cost of learning materials, trips to put learning into practice, and IT equipment to allow FELLOW to be run remotely if necessary.
Oxford Hub has 13 years' experience of running successful volunteering programmes and has been involved with FELLOW since the programme began in 2008. Our flexible approach has been crucial during the covid-19 pandemic - we played a key role in coordinating Oxford's response to the pandemic, and adapted our programmes to work remotely. FELLOW's volunteer-led learning model is adaptable, resilient and sustainable - some learners go on to become teachers themselves. We have strong collaborative links with Oxford City Council and other local organisations, enabling us to reach learners who will particularly benefit from the project and ensure that they receive appropriate support.