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About Routes

What we do

Routes is a social enterprise providing English language and confidence building workshops, and 1:1 mentoring for refugee and asylum-seeking women in London. We use theatre and play to create the perfect environment in which to help women improve their language, grow in confidence and build valuable social connections.

Why we do it

English language is the single biggest barrier to integration for new arrivals in the UK, especially for women, who are far less likely to have access to appropriate support. Many women are trapped in a cycle where poor English language leads to low confidence which leads to social isolation. We aim to break this cycle at every point by creating a supportive, nurturing, safe and fun learning environment where women can develop connections with each other. 

 

How we teach

Every Routes workshop uses a combination of tried, tested and innovative ways of learning language, where having fun and making mistakes are actively encouraged. Drama and theatre-based exercises allow students to grow in confidence, whilst learning the language they need for everyday life.   


 
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Active language learning

Unlike traditional English classes, Routes workshops focus on the real language our students need in the real world. We create and rehearse scenarios from everyday life, using language just as it would be used outside of the classroom. Our teaching is inspired by creative ESOL, where there is no set curriculum and students are in control of the language they learn.  

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grow in confidence

Routes workshops are designed to encourage students to take risks and try out new words, expressions and conversations. We create a supportive environment, where students feel comfortable to make mistakes, using: 

  • Playfulness and laughter
  • Improvisation and spontaneity
  • Performance and public speaking 
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make social connections

Routes classes are collaborative, and students are expected to support one another though the learning process. Whether you're attending a 10-week course or a one-off session, you'll be part of an encouraging group of women, who all share the challenging experience of being in a new country and learning a new language.   

Building connected communities through mentoring

Every woman that we work with will be paired with a mentor from a local organisation or business. 

Having a mentor will help every woman achieve personal and professional goals, broaden their networks, in turn improve wellbeing, open up employment opportunities and provide an extra opportunity for them to practise their English.

Our mentors will be women from local businesses, and they will receive training in communication, coaching and leadership, before becoming mentors on the programme. 

This relationship will be mutually beneficial to both women. For the mentors, their personal networks will be diversified and boundaries between local community groups will be broken. Having a increased sense of purpose will also boost wellbeing, and make every woman happier in their everyday life. 

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The wider problem

widening access to English Language 

 
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There are currently 850,000 migrants in the UK unable to speak English well or at all, for whom poor language is the biggest barrier to integration. 

Yet since 2009 there has been a 55% cut to English language funding, meaning that the demand for classes is far greater than the supply (up to 700,000 people are being “left voiceless”, without access to English classes). This is a huge issue, particularly for refugees and asylum seekers, as class waiting lists can be up to two years, which seriously slows down the process of settling in.

This problem is greater for women, who are often the primary caregivers. Traditional language classes make no allowance for this, meaning that things like childcare responsibilities, as well as cultural problems related to mixed gender classes, prevent many women from attending.

These reasons, and more, mean that over 60% of those unable to speak English in England and Wales are women. Read more here.

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Having a low English level is directly linked to poor mental health in women, much more strongly than it is for men, which is why so many women get trapped in a cycle - where poor language skills lead to low confidence, leading to social isolation.

And, of course, when you’re socially isolated, opportunities to learn new language, and engage in your local community, are few and far between. 

Routes is a social enterprise, with all of our profit going towards providing free classes for refugee and asylum seeking women.

We aim to remove as many barriers as we can, covering travel costs and childcare where necessary, and running women-only classes in familiar, welcoming spaces. 

Since November 2017, Routes has worked with over 100 women across London

Here's what our participants are saying about our classes

“I learnt lots. I feel free - like I can do anything”
“Routes is a fantastic way to learn... it is very interactive and practical.”
An excellent way to get the students practising their English. It gave them a chance to be creative and to learn new language at the same time.
— Christina, ESOL Teacher in London

100% of our students

would recommend Routes to a friend

&

think theatre is a good way to learn English