East Ayrshire Council – Sharing Lives, Sharing Languages

ESOL – Vibrant Communities
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Lead Organisation:
East Ayrshire Council
Award Amount:

A project to support ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) learners in East Ayrshire to practise and improve their English language skills out with ESOL classes and to promote social inclusion, connectedness, cultural exchange and cultural orientation.

The project was made possible by the Scottish Government’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund supported by the Scottish Refugee Council, provided the opportunity for learners to connect with the wider community and to try a variety of activities including group walks, health classes, music, dancing and sports / fitness sessions.

New Scots reached

Key Information

Over six months, we delivered a total of 83 workshops and held two celebration events.

The majority of workshops were held in Kilmarnock, twice weekly between May and November, 2023.

In collaboration with CentreStage, we developed a program called Creative Tuesdays in which learners were able to partake in singing, drumming, ukulele and dancing sessions.

Learners had the opportunity to share traditional dances and music from their home countries. CentreStage staff supported learners to create a multilingual songbook and perform the music at our final celebration event.

Our Fun Friday sessions were structured to provide a mix of enjoyable and educational experiences.

Based on learner feedback, the team organised a varied program of activities, ranging from health and wellness sessions (badminton, boxing, Qi gong and Pilates) to creative sessions (art in nature and photography) and social events (picnics, group walks and a BBQ).

Sessions were also delivered out with our teaching base in community hubs in Dalmellington and Cumnock where residents were not able to travel to Kilmarnock.

The project’s innovative approach created opportunities for language learning through a variety of mediums.

Key Information


CentreStage, Kilmarnock. Greener Communities (East Ayrshire Council). CHAT Team, Vibrant Communities (East Ayrshire Council).

Geographical reach

East Ayrshire


May 2023 – Nov 2023

Target Groups

ESOL learners comprising of Resettled Refugees, Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) and ESOL community families.

Project Type

Community and Social Connections


As part of East Ayrshire Council, the Lifeskills & Inclusion Team within Vibrant Communities (VC) has provided ESOL services throughout the East Ayrshire area for over 15 years.

The ESOL team deliver accredited and non – accredited learning opportunities from SQA Preparation for Literacy to SQA National 2 within the community.

All learners receive an ESOL initial assessment to determine which provision would best suit their needs. In 2022, the number of learners attending ESOL provision increased significantly, with a considerable number of Resettled Refugees from Ukraine, Syria and Afghanistan enrolling in the service.

In January, 2022, ESOL learners attended weekly outdoor sessions delivered by TCV (The Conservation Volunteers) in collaboration with EAC Greener Communities and supported by EAC ESOL staff.

Activities allowed individuals to meet fellow learners and to practise topic-specific language about nature and the environment. Learner feedback indicated that sessions were vital in contributing to mental health and well-being.

During the summer of 2022, we adapted sessions to provide family-friendly activities, allowing parents/carers with children to attend. The sessions were extremely popular with between 20 – 40 individuals attending each week. At the end of the summer, learners completed a feedback form.

The survey showed that 95% of learners agreed that those activities helped them to improve their English.

Involvement of New Scots in project

On setup of the project, ESOL learners were given the opportunity to make suggestions about which activities they would like to see included in the programme.

During the programme, a new constituted group, ESOL Creative Culture, was formed. The group took an integral role in producing ideas and discussing options with ESOL tutors and the community worker leading the project.

The committee began to consider future initiatives to expand the community and assisted in the collection of project feedback. The programme was designed to include ‘taster sessions’ of activities.

ESOL learners took the lead in deciding to continue sessions or choosing alternatives. Regular evaluations were carried out to enable staff to shape the Sharing Lives, Sharing Languages project based on learner needs and preferences.


Integration into the community: Improved English language skills have helped ESOL learners feel more included and integrated into their local community.

This is demonstrated by their increased confidence and participation in volunteer jobs.

Preparation for employment: The enhanced English language skills have better prepared learners for work opportunities. Some learners have gained enough confidence to apply for jobs within the council.

Empowerment in learning: Learners are taking more control over their learning experiences and preferences. The establishment of ESOL constituted group, Creative Culture, highlights their active involvement in planning and personalizing activities.

Pathways to accreditation and employability: The program supported learners’ progression into accredited courses and employability opportunities.

Supporting family learning: By encouraging teamwork within families, the program fostered confidence in learners to support their family members’ learning.

This strengthened family bonds and empowered parents to assist their children’s education.

Improved communication skills: Learners exhibited improved confidence and skills in interacting and communicating with others in various aspects of their lives.

Some learners took on leadership roles like hosting games and delivering presentations.

Problem-solving and decision-making: Participants’ ability to address challenges and adapt to changes demonstrated their growing confidence in problem-solving and decision-making.

Challenges encountered

Vibrant Communities ESOL staff collaborated with EAC Greener Communities to design and create an allotment with plant beds and a vegetable patch.

Learners helped prepare the ground and produce an allotment plan. However, due to vandalism of the site, the project had to be postponed.

It was decided to explore additional funding avenues to secure the allotment’s future, potentially incorporating protective measures to prevent further vandalism in the future.

Rainy weather also caused difficulties as many outdoor events had to be moved indoors and occasionally altogether changed. We also had to make some changes regarding a planned cycling activity as, due to funding, the travel hub had closed down.


The team liaised with UASC (Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children) Support Officers and ESOL learners to gather opinions and preferences as to how to proceed and replace the previous plan with new activities.

We changed the focus of our outdoor programme and redirected funds to purchase a mobile community asset kit. This allowed us to move away from the original site and deliver nature-based sessions in a variety of local parks and green spaces.

When the weather meant that outdoor sessions were not viable, we relocated to CentreStage and utilised an art/craft space to deliver a variety of creative workshops.

Our planned cycling activity was replaced with fitness classes, health walks and photography in nature sessions.

The positive aspects of taking on a new approach (innovative)/How the project has expanded on existing examples of good practice (good practice)

All these outcomes signify the positive impact of the ESOL program on the learners and their broader community so far. The program appears to have not only enhanced language skills but also contributed to learners’ personal development, confidence, and ability to contribute effectively to their surroundings.

Short-term impact:

  • Multicultural friendships
  • Community support (e.g. Netherthird)
  • Practising English outside class
  • Trying new activities
  • Reducing social isolation and loneliness
  • Integration
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Opportunities for creative expression

 Long-term impact:

  • Committee
  • Multicultural friendships
  • Confidence in using English language
  • Continuation of new working partnerships
  • Cross-fertilisation between services (e.g. Home Link Workers / Play Team / Greener Communities)
  • Development of employability skills (e.g. two people got volunteer jobs)


The Lifeskills and Inclusion Team is proud of the successes achieved during the reported period.

The consistent increase in participation demonstrates the tangible impact of our programmes on language development, social integration, and overall well-being. Despite challenges such as allotment vandalism, the resilience and adaptability of our team and participants shine through.

In the past few months, an informal committee has also been formed. As it is vitally essential to EAC to provide work that is centred on people and that strives to place their opinions and voices at the centre of everything we do.

The committee has also begun to consider future initiatives that will help in the expansion of the community and has assisted in the collection of additional feedback on the project.

I would like to thank you for your support and help in learning a new language and socialisation’ (learner comment).

Project Partners