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On December 11 at 6.30 in the evening the British Council will host an event at its headquarters in London. The title of our event is ESOL-Teaching Young Offenders. We plan to explore some of the key issues facing policy makers and practitioners in the teaching of English for those within the youth criminal justice system.  

We will have an opportunity to hear from Karen Chouhan, an experienced teacher of English in the youth justice system. Karen has subtitled her key note speech; “Why should I learn English if you are going to deport me?”. Following her presentation, guests will have an opportunity to participate in a short Question and Answer session with Karen and an invited panel. 
 
We are delighted to have Catherine Walter as Chair of our panel. 
 
Our panel guests will be:
 
Ross Little, who as the Training and Development Officer at the Howard League for Penal Reform, works on the U R Boss project, which seeks to raise awareness about the issues faced by young people in custody and involve them in influencing change. Ross has previous experience working in a wide range of research, policy, training and development roles in the youth sector and the justice system. 
 
Karen Chouhan,  who is an experienced teacher of English in the youth justice system, and says of her experiences….. . 
“Teaching ESOL in a Young Offenders Institute is stressful but probably not as stressful as being young, probably quite recently in England, in a very different cultural setting, with little or no English and maybe illegal - and in prison. Here the young people often face discrimination and abuse but will not or cannot talk about it. 
For the teacher it is sometimes frustrating sometimes heartbreaking. Many times rewarding, many times funny. Always interesting.”
 
Mike Waldron, who is an independent consultant and specialist in inter cultural dialogue, diversity and organisational change. His work has had a youth focus for over twenty five years. He is founder and Chief Executive of inter-pares associates, who work internationally in the design and delivery of non formal educational programmes for young leaders.  Mike worked for ten years for UK government in education and employment policy and implementation. He was Director of Diversity and Widening Participation for five years at the Prince’s Trust, developing and delivering programmes for young people facing significant disadvantage. He is currently amongst other things a strategic consultant to A National Voice, a UK based charity offering support to young people in and leaving care.
 
You can read blog contributions from Ross, Mike, specialist communications trainer and teacher Marie Delaney and others elsewhere on this site.
 
The aim of the event is to inspire and engage practitioners and policy makers, and to encourage networking and the sharing of ideas. The event is aimed at those with an interest in education, especially the teaching of English, justice and youth issues. We will have chance to explore the links between these three areas of practice and where they overlap. 
 
We hope that the event will allow guests to hear from colleagues with parallel experiences and to meet face to face with those who share their interests and concerns. 
 
We would ultimately like the event to be a spring board into a new virtual network. Our research in advance of the event, has suggested that there is an appetite for a network for those teaching in the youth justice system. We want to enable future network members to have a virtual space of their own; to blog, share ideas, raise questions and feel appreciated. The British Council plans to develop such a space, and a Ning platform will be launched following our event.
 
Whilst our main focus is on teaching English in the youth justice system, we are aware that there are those who would wish to contribute, who have maybe an interest in youth justice, but perhaps not education, or who work in education but with adults in custody, rather than young people. We do not want to narrow the opportunity for debate and will welcome participation from those who feel that they can contribute to and benefit from the network.
 
We are looking forward to seeing guests with us on the evening of December 11, to share ideas, hear some thought provoking commentary and kick start our virtual network for educators in the youth justice system and beyond. 
 
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