On June 11th the COSLA Migration team held a learning and networking event for ESOL tutors and coordinators from Scotland, and we were pleased to also welcome colleagues from Northern Ireland and England. Check out our Twitter Moment from the day. Learning event for ESOL https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Alison Strang, Senior Research Fellow in the Institute for Global Health and Development, Queen Margaret University, writes about her time as chair of the New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy.
There was one particular week back in 2013 when I, along with colleagues in the COSLA strategic migration partnership, Scottish Government and Scottish Refugee Council were all desperately searching around to find a good name for the refugee integration strategy that we were about to launch. We needed something catchy – but with initials that couldn’t be turned into a bad acronym! At the same time, we wanted to capture the spirit of welcome, to acknowledge that refugees’ relationships with Scotland begin on the first day they arrive, and that integration is about supporting local people to adjust to newcomers as well as supporting newcomers to feel at home. Too much to fit into one title you may say? Indeed. But when we hit on the name ‘New Scots’ we knew that we had captured the essence of what the strategy was trying to achieve. People coming to Scotland to seek sanctuary from danger should be welcomed as Scots. Yet, as newcomers, refugees may need some specialist support to cope with the challenges of adjusting to a new environment.
Refugees seek to lead full and independent lives. Challenges such as learning a new language and culture, and navigating local systems and services from shops and buses to public health services can isolate people. Too many asylum seekers and refugees experience periods of destitution and homelessness when the structures of our society fail to deliver rights effectively. The vision for the first New Scots strategy continues to guide the second strategy; “… a welcoming Scotland where refugees and asylum seekers are able to rebuild their lives from the day they arrive.”
As an academic at Queen Margaret University, I have been especially concerned with the impact of conflict and disaster on individual and community wellbeing. Over and over again I have seen people who have lost so much demonstrating amazing resilience and courage in tackling personal and public challenges to re-establish their lives. As chair of the New Scots strategy core group, it has been a real privilege to work closely with those delivering support and services and implementing a strategy that will change the lives of people living in Scotland. I have been humbled by the energy, vision and personal commitment of many busy people to make things happen!
I am now stepping down from this role following the launch of the second New Scots strategy 2018 -2022, in January 2018. I do believe that one of the most important achievements of New Scots so far has been to create a community of practice in Scotland around asylum and refugee issues. As I travel to other parts of the UK, Europe and further afield, I realise how unusual this is. The New Scots process has become a context in which information is shared, holistic responses are framed, and delivery monitored. Members are well connected to influence the key policy initiatives in their own sectors. Scottish Local Authorities have drawn on these relationships and shared understandings to respond to the challenge of welcoming, housing and supporting Syrian families in the resettlement scheme.
What next? I am excited about the ambition of the second New Scots strategy launched in January 2018. It is framed around four overarching outcomes concerning the nature of our communities; understanding rights and responsibilities; and access to rights and services; and informed strategic planning. At the same time, I see some key challenges to impact.
How can we involve refugees and other community members in the delivery and shaping of New Scots priorities over the next four years? Success depends on those who are living together as a diverse community leading the way in identifying priorities.
How can we ensure that community groups and other third sector organisations do not have to wait to be invited to the table?
How can we build strong trusting relationships between stakeholders across Scotland so that knowledge and good practice can be shared openly?
The diversity of Scotland has increased dramatically over the past 15 years, and our declining population has started to increase again. Experience shows that migrants, including refugees, ultimately will go to the places where they can find work. Are we doing enough to release refugees’ economic potential?
My final reason for thinking that ‘New Scots’ is a great title is because for integration to happen, we all need to become ‘New Scots’. We need to be constantly evolving and renegotiating our identity as a nation to blend the old with the new enabling our culture to be enriched by our diversity.
On 30 October 2017 Research Scotland and COSLA hosted an event to support English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) practitioners who are working with refugees.
Between January and August 2017 Research Scotland delivered a project to support those involved in the development and delivery of ESOL for adults resettled under the vulnerable persons resettlement scheme. The work involved a series of four regional engagement events with those involved in design and delivery of ESOL, field work with practitioners and learners, and the development of written guidance to support ESOL design and delivery from key speakers on topics of interest.
The event was opened by COSLA’s Communities and Wellbeing Spokesperson, Cllr Kelly Parry followed by a word from the Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP, the then Minister for Immigration.
Our next guest blogger is an ESOL tutor (English for Speakers of Other Languages) and they talk about the important impact learning English has on new Syrian Scots’ integration and self confidence.
I am an ESOL-Adult Tutor at the Ellon Academy Community Centre. I have been involved with 8 adult Syrians since June 2017. I am really fortunate to have a group of highly motivated learners who are not only keen to learn the English language but make a positive effort to acquaint themselves with the Scottish culture as well.
Each one of these learners have shown remarkable progress since they have arrived in Ellon and their enthusiasm is remarkable. However one such learner, who cannot go unnoticed, is Amin Al Mahmid.
When Amin started he came across as an introvert, a very shy individual who would not make any eye contact or comfortably volunteer to contribute during the lessons. Once he opened up and found his feet we recognised that he had a strength in using numbers and we made sure that each lesson had some time allocated to numbers to keep his interest and grow his confidence. This gave rise to participation from his side and gradually it extended to other activities like listening and speaking, reading and writing. At present we have managed to identify another strength of his which is phonics.
It is really heartening to see that as a part of the Syrian Resettlement Programme Amin has transformed and really come out of his shell to show us he is a fun-loving person. His confidence has grown ever since he started with us in June 2017 and now he cracks jokes with the little English he has and accompanies gestures to complete his jokes. There has never been a time when I found him uninterested in learning or disruptive to the classroom environment.
Amin manages to perform numerous tasks and activities that are helpful outside in the real world. He can greet anyone with appropriate language and engagement. He can participate in short conversation on familiar topics with common words and expressions such as weather, food and his favourite football.
When asking him, Amin considers himself and his family fortunate enough to be in Scotland. He is happy that they are in a safe country now. He wants to learn to drive so that he can travel around the UK.