A HUGE thank you to St John's School for providing so much space and support and to all the amazing local volunteers and supporters who made the Summer Language School possible.
Thank you also to MacMillan Education for generously providing EAL textbooks.
Our particular thanks go to Tony and Emma McCartney and their charity James Jar of Gifts for their amazing financial support.
And so it comes to an end. What began as a dream , a hope and a vision driven by the enthusiasm and can do attitude of the project team. Jo, Penny, Alyssa, Olha and Angela – each with their own skills, strengths and styles working together with respect and cooperation. The mantra “if we build it, they will come” was unashamedly stolen and guided us throughout.
Adult refugees needed English teaching to get them into work and help them establish independence in the UK. The provision on offer was insufficient and non existent during the summer holidays. Adults needed their children looked after so they could attend an intensive course.
Children arriving had experienced long delays in securing school places. Many had no schooling in place until at least September. Living with host families on limited budgets meant the summer holidays posed challenges in mental health, socializing and wellbeing. We needed to provide the children with a safe place where they could learn, play and meet others and be kept safe whilst parents worked or learned English.
A safeguarding risk, a curriculum challenge and an administrative nightmare!
No funds, no premises, no staff ….. no problem!
We received incredible funding support from the following organisations;
James’ Jar of Gifts – this wonderful charity uses money raised in memory and celebration of James McCartney to enrich the lives of children throughout the world. No child should ever get left behind is their ethos and they have helped deliver this incredible number of teaching hours to these children from Ukraine, Syria and Afghanistan. We thank you.
Yulife Insurance – who’s corporate mission is to turn financial products into a force for good. They responded to our appeal instantly, without hesitation and with complete commitment to supporting this project. Without these funds we could never have delivered the high quality programme we were able to offer to the children. We were able to provide high levels of staff:child ratios to support the safety and wellbeing of the children and deliver imaginative and enriching activities. We thank you.
Silicon Valley Bank – this London based corporate has a huge heart as well as a generous outlook. The people at the top of this company needed no persuasion, they opened their hearts as well as their chequebook and funded travel expenses so that students on very low incomes could get support to get to school every day, we were able to provide dancing, music, drama, cooking, sports, art, science, as well as professionally delivered ESL teaching with incredible resources. We thank you.
Where would we find the premises at such short notice ?
Look no further than St Johns School, Leatherhead, who immediately said yes to everything we asked. They donated a site beyond our wildest hopes, a self contained building with classrooms, gardens and specialist spaces, safe access and parking ! A Sites Team who were engaged and enthusiastic, during their busiest time of the year they would drop everything to fix a tap or repair a child's bike ! An IT team who were too available! We popped in constantly with our IT issues and they were brilliant. The SLT made sure that we had the total support of the school and it’s Foundation and they truly delivered on their charitable purpose. WE thank you.
We now needed staff, during the summer holidays! Teachers who regularly crawl to the end of term were asked to give up their summer and do it all again. And they did! Over 80 teachers, TA’s, and educators delivered a curriculum full of fun, learning and imagination designed and put together by our Education Team. It was spectacular. We thank you.
And then there were our other volunteers who were the nuts and bolts in high viz! They kept the children safe, they sorted the admin, they marshalled the car park, they made coffee, they fetched, carried, lifted, swept, stacked chairs, played football, built sandcastles, they wiped noses and knees, they opened crisps, got children out of trees and created an environment of love. We thank you.
And the children, 116 in total came. They arrived, quiet and overwhelmed. Another new place, more new faces, another strange set up. They said goodbye to their parents clutching their lunch and went into their classrooms. By the next day the neighbours we giving us feedback on the noise levels! Screams of joy, laughter and children playing, they made new friends and were able to relax back into their home languages amongst other children who knew only too well what they had left behind. They were happy, safe and full of excitement.
How much English did they learn ? We did not test them so cannot give any objective measures, This was deliberate as we did not want them to have this pressure, but we did hear from hosts on how much improvement they had seen. We can confidently state that these children are now far more confident, are ready to go to school in September with this learning tucked away and displayed to us everyday an eagerness to practise their language skills and communicate.
Ukrainian Independence Day on 24th August was a fitting finale to the project. Parents were able to come and watch their children, in National dress, sing and dance and recite poetry. There was not a dry eye in the house. We were all so proud.
Every child left with a bag full of goodies, books, stationery games and school equipment all donated by the local community.
So they say a picture paints a thousand words, and the photos we have, certainly capture some of the most wonderful moments.
We thank you all.
EERN Summer Language School Team
Epsom & Ewell Refugee Network operates under Good Company (Surrey) - charity number 1197493