Working together, South Wales’ Police and Cardiff Council ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) service developed the PolicESOL language course. The course aims to develop English language skills and provide participants with an understanding of their respective rights and responsibilities. It also aims to build a relationship of trust with the police. The course consists of a number of training sessions, each designed specifically to provide knowledge and understanding of how to live safely in the UK and abide by the law. Participation in the course is entirely voluntary, and usually takes place in separate classes for men and women. The course was designed as a series of ten independent two-hour sessions, including a number of topics: introduction to UK police; dealing with an emergency; personal safety in the community; child safety in the UK; dealing with domestic abuse; racial incidents; drug and alcohol related abuse and driving in the UK.
The South Wales Police and Cardiff ESOL identified particular community safety-related issues affecting new arrivals to Cardiff. These included non–reporting of racial harassment, leaving children alone, driving without documents and domestic violence. In addition, the police in Cardiff also identified a number of issues regarding their own response to new arrivals: language barriers, the availability and integrity of interpreters, a lack of cultural knowledge and not having prior information about an individual’s background.
Approximately 2,500 learners attend ESOL courses in Cardiff each year, representing 100 different nationalities. Most will benefit from the PolicESOL course. Feedback has shown that the classes have succeeded in strengthening participants’ confidence in the police, making them feel more comfortable in the UK and improving their listening skills and spoken English. The success of the project has been acknowledged with a national award and its adoption and use in other areas of the UK.
✔✔ It is important to focus solely on the police service in the community and country of resettlement, rather than encouraging participants to compare the police service in the country of origin as this may bring up traumatic memories.
✔✔ Police officer and staff attendance is a key part of building relationships between members of the community and the police. However, it is crucial that learners are given the opportunity to invite the police to attend, rather than having a pre-arranged visit.
ESOL teachers were nervous about delivering the PolicESOL material as they were concerned that participants would be uncomfortable with the content. The topic “Introduction to the Police” caused participants to be noticeably quieter and tense. However, as students developed more of an understanding and were able to ask questions they welcomed the opportunity to find out more.