The Welcome Group is a support, development and social group for young people for whom English is an additional language, in partnership with The Deanery High School. It came about as a result of a class visit to the library by some of the EAL students and their support teacher, as the young people felt comfortable in the space and could see the range of resources available to them.
The group helps young people to develop their English conversation skills by engaging them through sharing books and social activities such as board games, creative writing, digital sessions, arts, crafts and even their own Film Club. The additional resources available through ‘Into Film’ really help the young people to gain a deeper understanding of the films they watch and can even equip them with film-making skills. The resources and activities are designed to encourage peer to peer support and, as far as possible, to develop self-confidence and give the young people ownership of the group and activities such as their group blog.
The group offers a range of led activities, in a safe and non-educational space. It helps young people to make best use of the free resources available to them in the library setting and encourages their wider families to make use of them as well, to help them to integrate into the local community more quickly and effectively. Wigan has traditionally had low numbers of migrants, in comparison with many areas, which means there is little provision for, or understanding of their situation. The library has a thriving adult English conversation group, to which we signpost, and we link with the established local ‘Synergy’ group for celebratory events, which helps to widen experience and reduce social isolation.
The ongoing link with the Deanery is crucial as it allows us to promote the group directly to those who might be interested, and to spread the word to other schools via their EAL network. It also helps us to understand, and help overcome, any barriers, and to pitch the offer at the right level so that everyone can benefit.
We are proud that the future for young people migrating to Wigan in the future is a lot brighter, thanks to the formation of The Welcome Group!