Olivia Devereux-Evans meets an English teacher who is determined to help others succeed
Teacher Paul Fletcher wants education to be available for everyone.
In 2016 he created a social enterprise, Business English Study, to allow people of differing abilities and nationalities to learn English and get free job application and interviewing advice.
Explaining the idea behind it, Paul told the Echo: “On the one hand, it was all about teaching them English and trying to get them into jobs.
“On the other hand, what came out of it was that you would get a lot of people from different ethnic backgrounds in the same room talking to each other, breaking down any misconceptions of different cultures, just realising that we are all the same.”
Before the pandemic, the classes were run in free local rooms or funded by grants in locations including Harmony Hall in Walthamstow. Paul works with numerous teachers, some of whom have recently completed courses in teaching English as a second language (ESL) so they can get more experience. Three classes a week are run alongside job application advice, making sure people know what to wear and how to approach their interviews.
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit and lessons moved online. Paul switched to producing materials, and set up a platform under the Business English Study name to help make education accessible globally.
He now produces English lessons for tutors and students around the world. Since creating the online platform, Paul has seen up to 1,000 lessons downloaded in a day. He is trying to make the site become a global business hub, allowing people to export and import products globally.
“If education is not available for everybody you are just reinforcing class divisions and inequality,” he explained. “I am very interested in the future of education. I am very much interested in developing lessons that are adaptive.
“If they do a lesson and then a little test at the end of it then you see the mistakes and you can adapt their learning individually. A lot of it will be generated and driven by artificial intelligence which monitors their learning patterns in different areas.”
Before setting up Business English Study, Paul worked in Spain teaching English and then came back to the UK to teach in academies in London and for corporate clients. He set up a business, Capital Languages, to teach executives in the City.
But it was coming home to Walthamstow and seeing people without the resources to learn English that gave Paul the idea for Business English Study. He said: “I was coming home from the city, teaching these executives. I would come back to Walthamstow and see people in the area who were underprivileged or did not have the time or the money to really learn English.
“You would see them really struggling with their English. On the back of that I thought I would provide free English lessons in the local area, in Walthamstow.”
Business English Study was awarded funding and support from UnLtd, the foundation for social entrepreneurs. The money will contribute towards hosting costs for lessons, paying teachers, and technology for online teaching materials, including film and audio recording. Paul is also now thinking about creating an app.
“The money is very welcome as it enables me to be more strategic and expand lessons,” said Paul. “I am trying to help the local people.”
Find out more about Business English Study:
This article is supported by St James Street Big Local in association with UnLtd, the foundation for social entrepreneurs. To find out more about UnLtd:
Call 0207 566 1100