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'People can feel unwelcome' - Bid to launch free English classes after racist tower block poster

PUBLISHED: 07:02 14 February 2020 | UPDATED: 07:32 14 February 2020

Dozens of people turned up to Winchester Tower in Norwich on Sunday to stand up against racism. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Dozens of people turned up to Winchester Tower in Norwich on Sunday to stand up against racism. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

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The founder of an adult learning centre in Norwich is hoping to fundraise to launch free English classes in response to a racist poster put up in a city tower block.

A poster put up in Winchester Tower in Norwich. Picture: SubmittedA poster put up in Winchester Tower in Norwich. Picture: Submitted

Andrew McDonnell runs The Public House, which offers adult education day and evening courses in creative arts at various venues around Norwich.

He set it up in 2016 in response to funding cuts in adult education, and The Public House today runs arts, languages, dress making and creative writing courses among others.

But he now hopes to launch free English classes to help people with another first language integrate, after a poster was put up in Winchester Tower earlier this month demanding people speak English after the UK left the European Union.

The 42-year-old said The Public House already ran preparation courses for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), a proficiency test for non-native English speakers, and that there were Christian organisations which ran similar courses.

Andrew McDonnell, of University Centre Peterborough and founder of The Public House. Photo: University Centre PeterboroughAndrew McDonnell, of University Centre Peterborough and founder of The Public House. Photo: University Centre Peterborough

MORE: City's Eastern European community praises 'magnificent' response to racist poster

But he said the free ones would be secular and would focus more on informal language and social skills.

"It would be around what our British values are, what expectations might be in society and what people might come up against in terms of job applications," he said.

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"One of the things I have learned teaching English is that people will struggle between informal and formal English."

He said he was inspired to start fundraising after seeing the news of the poster in Winchester Tower, which sparked an outpouring of support around the country.

"Language is such a big barrier," he said, "and I think it can really help people integrate. [The poster] made me realise that this was important to do.

"People can feel quite unwelcome at times, and this might help."

Mr McDonnell, who is also a university lecturer, said he is open to all options when it came to the fundraising, including working with other local charities and potentially launching a crowdfunder.

Money would need to be raised to cover the costs of tutors, a venue and advertising.

For more information, or if you can help, visit www.thepublichousenorwich.co.uk or email admin@thepublichousenorwich.co.uk

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