MESH – a new ESOL website for Leeds

Migrant English Support Hub (MESH) will provide a ‘one stop shop’ for adult migrants and advisers to find up to date information about all ESOL classes in Leeds.

women chatting

Why MESH? 

Leeds’ black and minority population is the most diverse in the UK outside of London, with over 70 languages spoken. Over 8,000 new migrants arrived in 2010/11, a figure that has doubled since 2001. This is really positive for Leeds, as according to recent research by University College London, migrants have made a net contribution of £25bn to the UK public finances since 2000.

Language skills

Migrants need English language skills to work, participate in society, training and education and while there are lots of committed people and organisations all over Leeds providing ESOL, the insecurity over funding streams means that ESOL classes come and go, and the sector is fragmented and uncoordinated.

Dr James Simpson, Senior Lecturer, School of Education, University of Leeds, and a member of the MESH steering group said:  

“MESH aims to support the coordination adult English language provision in the community sector in Leeds, catering for the needs of the city’s most disadvantaged and marginalised migrants.

"It will benefit potential learners in two ways. Firstly it will enable them, their teachers and those who advise them to locate accessible and appropriate classes of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in Leeds. And secondly it will help learners to identify routes for progression from their ESOL classes into work and mainstream education.”

Jayne Grant, Interpreting and Translation Team Co-ordinator, Leeds City Council, said:  

“Improving their English will help people integrate into the wider community and achieve more from their life in the UK.  The online portal will allow service providers to promote ESOL to its customers to improve the lives of customers in Leeds.”

The project so far

Since December 2013, two MESH development workers, Clare Jackson and Natja Thorbjornsen, have been mapping English provision for migrants in Leeds. As part of that work they have interviewed over 50 providers in the voluntary, private and statutory sector across all areas of Leeds to get updated information about ESOL classes. 

Clare and Natja are also developing the social media strategy for the project over the next couple of months, and the MESH website will have twitter, facebook  and vimeo. Clare Jackson said:

"Through our mapping work we have built up good working relationships with providers of ESOL in Leeds, and we are working closely with the MESH steering group, and the web developer to build a superb, and sustainable online resource for ESOL in Leeds.

"The project to develop MESH is also already yielding positive results for the ESOL sector by forging effective partnerships of ESOL providers throughout the city, and the hopelong term is that this will result in collaborative planning of ESOL provision so that learners’ needs are met and barriers to integration and employment overcome in our city."

How is the project managed?

The MESH project is managed by RETAS (Refugee Education, Training Advice Service) in partnership with other ESOL sector stakeholders in Leeds such as Leeds City Council, the University of Leeds, Leeds Asylum Seekers’ Support Network (LASSN) and provider representatives, and funded by a grant from the Leeds Transition Fund. The mapping work will be completed in June 2014, and the website is planned go live in the autumn of 2014.

Refugee week 2014

MESH and RETAS are also organising  a Migrant English Leeds mini conference, and a MESH language exchange for Refugee Week. This will happen in Leeds Civic hall on the 20 June. To find out more email


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