Sarah Renshaw, centre manager “We used to get loads of people wanting help to pass the ‘Life in the UK' test. But it's against UfI rules - we're a test centre, and we're not allowed to ‘teach the book'. We could refer people to other providers - but they know us, because of our other courses, and wanted us to help.

”We found out there is another route to meeting the citizenship requirement for ESOL learners. Provided they attend citizenship classes, and can show progression in ESOL, and evidence of having done at least 100 guided learning hours, that meets the qualification requirements. But it was really hard to identify what the approval processes are. It took us about 18 months of research, negotiating with the awarding bodies, UfI and the Home Office, before we were sure we had got it right.

“Now we are running this programme, it's brilliant. It's made all the difference to our Somali women learners, particularly. Our learners become British. That means they gain the ID they need to get driving licences, mobile phone contracts - just everything we take for granted. And their confidence improves beyond measure once their speaking and listening skills have advanced.

“Advice to others? - Just do it! But there are a couple of things you need to have in place. Firstly, you need native speakers for your target population. And secondly, the IAG is critical. This course is not an easy option.”

Sarah Renshaw, Quality and Audit Manager

The good practice in detail

How do you meet the learning needs of non-traditional learners, who don't speak English, and culturally, who tend to stay at home? And is it worth the effort?

Why not download the Q-box Action Plan for this example and make notes while you read?

Easton Learning Zone premisesEaston Learning Centre found that there was a huge demand among Somali women for a programme which would improve their English, and meet the Home Office citizenship requirement. And their view of the programme which was designed for them? Sarah Renshaw, who designed the programme, said ‘They are not traditional learners, but they do need English to be able to visit the doctor, talk to their children's teachers, and just engage in everyday life. Some of the women enjoy the Saturday morning listening class so much, they go on coming and chatting to each other, even after they have passed the test. And they've organised reciprocal childcare, which is great - I could have got funding for childcare for them, that's not the problem, but there are no providers for children under two in this area. Once they have passed the course, and got their ID, they can really start to participate in the life of the country. Working with women means we reach the whole family - and indeed the whole community.'

Q-BOXDo you know of any groups of non-traditional learners who could benefit from your provision? How do you plan to find out what their wants and needs are? How do you tailor what you offer, to meet your learners' needs? Can you adapt both the training courses, and the qualifications, to get the right programme for your learners? What other support needs might your learners have, like childcare? Would you be able to get funding to meet their support needs? Are there any other barriers to providing learners with the support they need? Would your learners be willing to pay for the right programme, if it did not attract funding? What alternative sources of funding might you be able to try, for a programme to meet the needs of a particular group of learners?

The Home Office requirements are that learners should study citizenship, and should show progression in ESOL. So the Centre designed ESOL courses using the content of the citizenship course, as well as the more usual ESOL course content.

Q-BOXWould other groups of ESOL learners need different content? What other detailed content could be combined with ESOL to meet the needs of specific groups of learners?

There is also a requirement for learners to show evidence of having spent a minimum of 100 guided learning hours on the programme. To meet this, the centre designed a diary sheet for learners to show what they had been doing, and how long they had spent on it. This covers not just class group work and exercises, but also out of class activities using speaking and listening skills, such as shopping in the pharmacy, or watching East Enders.

Q-BOXHow do you make sure your programmes meet any GLH requirements? What other advantages might there be from encouraging (or requiring) learners to keep a log of their learning activities?

There are unexpected complexities and costs with dealing with non-traditional learners. Managing a programme for learners from a country with little or no documented identification can be an administrative nightmare. Just getting the administration right, around spelling people's names, needs someone with the same language as the learners.

The information, advice and guidance for potential learners is very complex. There is no funding available for this programme, and it is not for everyone. It won't be any use for people whose visa is about to expire. Whoever is advising needs to be thoroughly familiar with the Home Office rules about who needs to do the citizenship test. And they need to be quite clear that taking the ‘Life in the UK' test is going to be quicker and cheaper than doing the ESOL course route. Taking a course with a guided learning hours requirement of 100 hours, over a period of three months, is intensive and demanding.

Q-BOXIf you design a new programme to meet specific learners' needs, have you got someone able and qualified to give detailed and appropriate information, advice and guidance about it?

In the six months the programme has been running, 450 learners have completed it successfully. They have talked to their friends, and there is now a waiting list for the programme. Only one other provider in the area offers anything similar, and their programme is for a smaller number of learners, and takes a year to complete.

Q-BOXHow could you use this approach to improve your provision?

Uploaded - November 2008

What could you do next to improve your provision?

Answering all of the italicised questions in the Q boxes above will help you begin to health-check your current practice. Download all of the linked documents, compare them with your own or adapt them for your own use. Write a short action plan to get you from where you are now (what is good and what needs improving) to where you want to be.

The Building Better Practice (BBP) web resource is a great place to start if you want to benchmark yourself against other providers. It will show you the most common inspection strengths and weaknesses for each issue or topic, an analysis of the good practice found on inspection and a series of health-check questions to help you establish how you compare to others. Look specifically at how you could use BBP to improve your programme recruitment
practice and consider equal opportunities and recruitment.

Actions for Quality Improvement (AQI) is a set of activities with resources around which you can run staff development sessions with your teams. The activities cover all aspects of the learner's journey and will help your staff embed quality improvement in the heart of your provision. Look specifically at how you could use AQI to improve your recruitment practice.

If you need more help, ideas and resources for the process of self assessment then look at the L earner-Centred Self Assessment (LCSA) materials. This is a web-based or hard-copy resource to help you generate a rich source of evidence for your self-assessment report through professional discussion rather than the completion of lengthy forms.

9 Data Projects to Improve Your Provision is a set of projects which help you use data to explore all aspects of the learner's journey for improvement themes.

The Self-Assessment Surgery Projects have proved very popular at the Preparing for Inspection events. They will help you determine whether or not your SAR is fit for purpose.

Interpreting the Common Inspection Framework (CIF) is essential guidance on how to interpret the CIF for your remit and is now contained in the appendices of the Ofsted inspection handbook for work-related and adult and community learning.

The Inspection Toolkit contains step-by-step guidance on how to prepare for inspection and covers such topics as choosing the right person to be nominee, using data and self assessment.