Fircroft College of Adult Education is a social justice mission-based College situated in Selly Oak Birmingham. Occupying a former Cadbury family home and set in six acres of grounds, Fircroft College provides a range of courses that provide the opportunity for students to be residential and stay while they learn.
Being a college that offers adult education, Fircroft works with those often disadvantaged and excluded from education. More recently due to receiving a variety of funding, the college has been able to tailor both its curriculum and approach to widen participation to refugees and asylum seekers. The Free Thinking programme is an example of the College’s efforts to engage students from a refugee and asylum-seeking background.
Speaking of Fircroft’s support to those seeking sanctuary, Mel Lenehan Principal and CEO tells us about the college approach:
“As a residential adult college, many of our students describe Fircroft as a retreat for learning, being able to escape the challenges of everyday life. The college provides an immersive, transformative learning experience for adults. It is therefore a natural extension of the College’s ethos to extend the opportunities to learn to adults from refugee and asylum seeker communities.”
Fircroft’s previous community based and volunteer powered ESOL projects Talk English and Midlands Engine came to an end in March 2020 due to COVID19 and they were eager to keep the momentum of their ESOL work in the local community. Neena Chauhan, Project Manager shares why this was important:
“We have successfully delivered two challenging projects in the past three years, working closely with partners in the local community and our amazing volunteer tutors. This has given us great reach into the local community especially with newly arrived asylum seekers and refugees. COVID19 threw a huge spanner in the works and abruptly stopped this progress in March leaving many of our students without any ESOL opportunities. We wanted to ensure we could provide some accessible education as we know this community group experiences a wide range of challenges especially having minimal to no digital access.”
Working in partnership with Birmingham Centre for Art Therapies, Fircroft College collectively designed an ESOL and wellbeing pack which included an ESOL workbook for a range of levels and a calming pack aimed to promote positive wellbeing through therapeutic based activities.
The ESOL workbook was a huge collaborative effort led by Neena Chauhan, Project Manager and involved Volunteer Teachers, Marketing and Tutor teams at Fircroft College.
Both workbooks were provided with colouring pencils and pens and delivered to three community partners this month British Red Cross, Birmingham, Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid and Barnados. Rohima Khatun from Banardos, one of the recipients of the bundles said:
“I received the workbooks yesterday, and I am absolutely blown away by the quality and content. You have all done an amazing job. I have already handed out the first booklet and full distribution will start next week.”
Fircroft are continuing to work closely with the partners to track the impact this will hopefully have on the households who receive these and is getting ready to launch some online ESOL. You can read more about their current online courses available here – https://www.fircroft.ac.uk/Pages/Category/online-courses-2020. If you would like a digital copy of the ESOL and Wellbeing pack please get in touch directly with Neena –[email protected]