Thank you to Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, for visiting BAES to find out more about our English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) provision.

The visit was a great opportunity for us to shine a spotlight on our inspirational learners and to showcase how our courses help asylum seekers and refugees to settle in Birmingham and find employment.

The Mayor was joined by Sue Harrison, Strategic Director of Children and Families at Birmingham City Council and Councillor Saima Suleman, Cabinet Member for Digital, Culture, Heritage & Tourism, as they were shown around our Brasshouse Centre, located at the Library of Birmingham.

Visitors heard about the richness of programmes from digital skills to visits to Parliament, as well as our plans for future courses, bespoke careers coaches and pathways into work or further study. There was also a visit to a Pre-Entry ESOL class for adults at the start of their journey in English language development, before joining a group of learners with various stories and ambitions to share for an informal Questions & Answers session.

During this session the Mayor heard first-hand accounts of learning English in a new country. One learner talked about Brasshouse as “a factory of dreams, where anything is possible!” While other learners talked about how they had found a new community where they could make friends and practise their English.

The group were asked by the Mayor about the importance of the transport being paid for as part of the ESOL course. He heard about how it was an essential support for both getting to class but also provided the opportunity to develop a greater understanding of the city by being able to travel around it. Other questions from the guests were concerned with what was the biggest benefits of learning at the centre and was there anything that could be better. Learners told of their happiness with the courses, the teachers and the centre staff, but if they could change anything they would like more classes and to also access more support to find work and receive careers advice.

Head of BAES, Ilgun Yusuf said

“It’s been a privilege to have the Mayor, Cllr Suleman and the Strategic Director find space in their busy schedules to come and find out about how we are supporting so many asylum seekers and refugees make Birmingham their new home. It’s also a wonderful recognition of the fantastic team work of staff at BAES and the wider council in creating a learning community with the learner at the centre of everything we do.

I was proud of our many learners who spoke so well about the challenges they face, but also humbled by their determination in grasping the opportunities that these courses provide in making a better future for themselves, their families and wider society."

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