From education to employment

Syrian refugees enrol at SERC looking for a new life

Over the past two years, South Eastern Regional College (SERC) has been helping Syrian Refugees who have recently moved to Northern Ireland under the Vulnerable Syrian Refugee Resettlement Scheme.

Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, Syrian refugees have fled or been forced out of their home and sought refuge here.

In 2015, Prime Minister David Cameron announced an additional 20,000 Syrian refugees would be resettled in the UK over the course of the current UK Parliament. As such, SERC is part of the Department for Communities consortium of local organisations who have been appointed to help deliver a range of services to the refugees and assist with their resettlement and integration.

With most refugees arriving with little or no English-speaking ability, SERC have been proactive and delivered formal English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes to the local communities and provided pre-ESOL classes for absolute beginners which were tailored to meet their needs to help them integrate into their local community.

This year, SERC has 110 students enrolled on ESOL classes with 27 students successfully progressing to accredited ESOL courses after completing pre-entry classes and are on course to start ESOL exams at the end of this semester.

ESOL is ideal for anyone living in the UK who needs to improve their understanding and use of written or spoken English.

Pre-Entry courses run for the full academic year (33 weeks) and are suitable for absolute beginners.  After successful completion of the Pre-entry classes, students are then enrolled on the accredited ESOL classes (17 weeks) where they can progress from Entry 1 up to Entry 3. After completing their exams students can progress to Further Education (FE) courses. This year successful students from ESOL have progressed to FE and are studying: computing, catering and the restart education programme. 

SERC has teamed up with the Bridge Community Centre and Atlas Childcare thanks to external funding which enables parents who were previously unable to attend classes due to childcare commitments, to attend classes regularly so that they too can improve their English.

SERC Deputy Head of School for the School of Hospitality, Management, Tourism and Languages Tessa Barrett said:

I am very pleased to see the number of dedicated students who are taking their English classes very seriously.  It is wonderful to see such improvement in students who had no English at all when they first arrived and to see some who are now fluent in the language.

She continued:

“Many Syrian students come to Northern Ireland as highly qualified professionals, but a lack of English has been a barrier to the challenge of re-building their lives.  Hopefully, with the help of our ESOL classes and encouragement from the tutors who are keen to see them progressing, these barriers will soon be overcome.”

SERCs International Development Manager Zia Nazar said “Supporting the refugees in enrolling onto courses in the region has been a systematic project undertaken by the College and will help hundreds of refugees. It is encouraging to see those who have already come so far in learning a new language and adjusting to a new life here in Northern Ireland.

SERCs international team not only support the refugees to access education but have actively supported the families as they settle into their new community. The team work closely with the families to make them feel welcome and go above and beyond to support them as they make their new life here. The dedicated international staff have taken time outside of work to take the refugees shopping, introduce new families to the community and signposting them to meet their religious needs.

Related Articles