A GREAT Project participant shares their story

Before relocating to the UK, Joanna worked as both a primary and secondary school teacher in her native country, Poland. Before joining the GREAT Project, Joanna felt her English language skills were not good enough to work as a teacher in the UK and she was also concerned she didn’t understand the British educational system. Joanna started on the project in the hopes she would better her language skills and to eventually find work in her field.

“I was at a time in my life where I wanted to think about looking for employment, but I needed help to find work and to understand the job market.”

Joanna first interacted with the GREAT Project when she met Eileen, an Employment Support Officer (ESO), at a children’s play session held at Beaumont Leys library. After discussing all the options that would become available to her as a participant on the project, Joanna decided to refer herself. Eileen was then appointed Joanna’s ESO, and they soon began working together to design a support plan right for Joanna.

Once signed up to the project, Eileen spoke with Joanna about her barriers and goals, and designed a support plan tailored to her needs. One of the first sessions Joanna was encouraged to attend was work club. Joanna was able to work on her CV and learn the skills she needed to search for a job effectively. Following on from this, Joanna also had a one-to-one interview skills session, followed by a mock interview. This is something Eileen felt would be beneficial for Joanna, as it would help prepare her for interviewing using English as a second language.

Although Joanna has all the relevant qualifications to teach in England, she felt most comfortable looking for a teaching assistant role, as she felt this would be an easier transition. Eileen felt it would be beneficial for Joanna to look at job specifications for a variety of teaching assistant roles, as this would give Joanna insight into what skills and qualifications would be needed at different levels. A real turning point in Joanna’s confidence came when she saw an advert that was specifically looking for a Polish speaking teaching assistant. Seeing this role showed Joanna that being bi-lingual is hugely beneficial and is considered a valued skill as oppose to a barrier.

Speaking of her time on the project, Joanna said:

“I really enjoyed having someone to talk to, and speaking in English has shown me that I can be understood by others. I also really liked having time to focus on my needs. Being a mother, sometimes it can be hard to focus on yourself, but I was able to put myself first. For those that are thinking about joining the GREAT Project, go for it – do something for yourself. Trust the people that offer you help because it’s worth a try.”

Eileen, Joanna’s Employment Support Officer, said:

“Joanna really has it all; good qualifications and work experience. She just needs to have more confidence in her spoken English. She will make a wonderful teaching assistant.”

Joanna has completed her time with the GREAT Project, and is looking forward to all the job prospects that will be available to her as a bi-lingual teacher. She is registered with multiple teaching agencies and is hoping to secure a job in September.