ESOL Champion for the North West

Our Learner Support Worker, Pauline Fletcher, wins major award: Trinity College London, “ESOL Champion for the NW”

“Pauline is a true Mancunian. She provides a great welcome to our city and the English Language. She is loved by everyone and helps anyone who needs her support, with fantastic results.”


Pauline lost her husband in May 2007, and found herself lost in grief, and also feeling useless, because he had always taken care of practical repairs. She spotted an advert about a Women’s DIY course in her local area, and decided that this could help, and joined the class. Very soon after Pauline started learning DIY, I as her trainer, realised that, not only did I have an enthusiastic learner, but in Pauline I had a firm supporter, who showed excellent skills supporting vulnerable learners. Our DIY Project continued in January 2008 with funding from NLDC (MAES), and Pauline became the main Learner Support volunteer, supporting in particular a learner who had deep seated emotional problems but who responded very positively to learning practical skills of DIY.

It was a big blow to Pauline when the DIY workshop had to close down, due to lack of funding. Also she needed a back operation, which put her out of action for several months, and she felt very low.

I changed jobs and became the ETE Coordinator for the Wai Yin, and moved to our City Centre location, but kept in touch with Pauline. When she was up and about again, she gave me a ring and we met for lunch. I was desperately in need of support in my new job, especially as we have many pre-ESOL learners who need to practice their ESOL skills on a 1:1 basis. I asked Pauline if she was interested to volunteer in this area, and she started to cry, I think this was because she was so relieved to be back on board.

Pauline proved herself to have a natural gift for teaching ESOL , with enormous patience and drive for each learner to succeed, and this has grown with time.

I needed help with reviewing and monitoring the welfare of learners, and I turned to Pauline who began to work 1 day a week as a Case Worker. She did not want to give up her Learner Support role so continued this as a volunteer for 2 days every week. About the same time we took on a new Project Support Worker, Yang Zhang, and I realised that their skills would compliment each other, so I asked them to work together, and since that time Yang has become Pauline’s Line Manager. Yang and Pauline have made an excellent team, sharing skills and passion for our learners to succeed. Yang has taught Pauline ICT skills needed, and Pauline is now an excellent administrator as well as a Learner Support Worker. We set up an NVQ Centre for Advice and Guidance, and Pauline now has this qualification, which has increased her sense of professionalism. The Wai Yin has recognised the enormous contribution that Pauline has made through awarding her the diamond volunteer award, and also now paying her for her Learner Support work with us.

Throughout the organisation, and among our many learners, Pauline is greatly loved and respected for her work. She has developed her role as Learner Support, and has set up an “English Corner” where learners can come to practice English, which she runs with volunteers. She now runs the Speaking and Listening exams and makes sure everyone taking the exam has had a chance to practice beforehand, and spends the time needed for each learner targeting the weakest for more intensive work. As a consequence our reputation and our results have greatly improved, for example, in the last 2 Speaking and Listening exams we had a 100% pass rate. This is remarkable considering the level at which each learner started.

We work with people of many different cultures and backgrounds. They really appreciate being welcomed to the English language by a woman from East Manchester, that shows the kindness and hospitality for which Manchester is famous all over the world. From the beginning Pauline has tried to learn words of their language, and once reduced a Bosnian man to tears when she greeted him in his own language. At the moment most of our learners are Mandarin Speakers, so this year Pauline has begun to learn Mandarin, and is making great progress!