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Dr. Ger Scanlon

DCU project helping refugees and those in Direct Provision to learn English

Dr. Geraldine Scanlon and Dr. John Lalor from DCU’s Further Education and Training Research Centre have recently concluded work on a European project called EN-ABILITIES which developed tools aimed at encouraging autonomous language learning for adult students with Special Educational Needs (SEN). 

The project is now being reorientated in Ireland to help adults who have refugee status or who are living in Direct Provision to promote social inclusion and to give them some informal support in learning English. The learning environment for refugees can be fraught with numerous challenges including the lack of access to English language classes, being moved to other locations at very short notice, while some are living in cramped conditions that are ill suited to learning.

The Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is completely free and can be accessed through any device.  It has been developed and delivered through non-formal education settings, implementing a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and a new validated and evidence-based methodology and approach translated into practical guidelines for ICT and software developers and pedagogical guidelines for teachers. 

Given the work of Respond, a not for profit Approved Housing Body and service provider, the researchers have now offered the free platform to the organisation to support their refugee resettlement project. The conflict in Syria is a significant humanitarian crises of our time, with approximately 5.5 million people fleeing the region seeking refuge and safety. In response the Irish Government committed to receiving 4,000 refugees, from the area, between 2016 and 2019. The Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) was established in 2015 to oversee this. Respond work with the IRPP and local county councils as the implementing partner in different parts of the country. Respond also works with the families to support and assist them to integrate into their new communities.

Dr. Geraldine Scanlon said

“All individuals are entitled to have access to education, especially those from marginalised and vulnerable groups. The aim of this project is to promote social inclusion and to give refugees and those in Direct Provision some informal support in learning English. As researchers we are particularly interested in offering this free online platform to any organisation who feel it would be of use to their clients especially given many of the classes have ceased due to COVID-19.“

Niamh Randall, spokesperson for Respond said

“Respond’s dedicated Refugee Resettlement team is made up of Resettlement Support and Intercultural workers who support people to integrate into their new communities. We hope that VLE will be an additional support tool for those who are trying to learn a new language in very new circumstances and having been through a very traumatising experience. We are most grateful to DCU and Dr Geraldine Scanlon for providing us with access to the platform.”

About Dr. Geraldine Scanlon

Dr. Geraldine Scanlon is an Assistant Professor in Psychology and Education in the School of Human Development and is the Chair of the University Research Ethics Committee. Her research interests are informed by a human rights agenda which encompases the rights  of marginalised groups to access and participate in education by promoting social inclusion to assist them in reaching their full potential and to become autonomous citizens. 

Any organisation wishing to use the VLE can contact her at geraldine.scanlon@dcu.ie


About Dr. John Lalor

Dr John Lalor is an Assistant Professor in the School of Policy and Practice in the Institute of Education in DCU. John is also a researcher in DCU's Further Education and Training Research Centre and in the past has served as Programme Chair for the BSc in Education & Training and the BSc in E&T Flexible Learning mode in DCU.

About Respond

Respond, a not‐for‐profit housing association, has been working all around Ireland for over 37 years. We are proactively responding to the housing and homelessness crisis providing real on‐the‐ground solutions and we are working hard to identify ways to support people to move out of homelessness into secure homes quickly. We own and manage 4,526 homes across the 26 counties in Ireland where approximately 9,000 tenants live. We provide emergency accommodation with support for families who are homeless in six Family Hubs where we provide wraparound support in relation to access to housing, mental and physical health services, family or parenting support and a range of other issues. We also continue to work with families once they have moved on to ensure the sustainability of these exits. In addition to housing and related work we also provide Day Care Services for Older People, Early Education, Childcare, Family Support and Resettlement Services.