About Beyond The Page

Our aims and approach

Beyond The Page (BTP) is a company limited by guarantee, with a non-profit constitution. It serves women in Thanet, east Kent in face-to-face programmes, and further afield on Zoom. BTP is completely independent and relies on fund-raising from grant holders.

Since 2015, BTP has offered safe, creative and fun women-only spaces for English language-learning and inter-cultural friendship.  We focus on meeting the integration challenges facing women born outside the UK, aiming to increase their confident participation as active citizens and parents. They include those who are living in, or rehoused from refuges; destitute during immigration disputes; refugees and asylum seekers; mentally frail, socially isolated, with minimal family support; illiterate or with a learning difficulty. These women often cannot access mainstream ESOL or find it does not meet their complex needs.

BTP pioneers a cross-disciplinary approach to language learning and community building. Since the outset, we have combined ESOL teaching with ‘Natural Voice’ ; this is an approach used in singing. Practitioners believe that ‘if you can talk, you can sing’ and have a set of principles and techniques which are inclusive, welcoming and highly effective in bringing all voices into the room. Our Practice Director, Jodi Watson, has innovated a practice which enables adults learning English to sound out their voices and become confident, full participants in the group.

Our core programme, United Mothers, is open to all Thanet women (including British women who want to join a multicultural group). In August 2020 we launched our United Mothers Chatrooms, providing our unique practice online combined with Covid-19 information and digital empowerment to women across the county. We focus on providing a long-term, practical response to an underlying and often invisible need. Volunteers are mainly of retirement age, who say this project has benefitted their mental health.

One said:

“This is the only thing that’s carried on during the pandemic that’s helped me feel connected with other people, feeling I could help somebody else. Just having that connection with other people really, makes a big difference, doesn’t it?”.
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Volunteer
Our Community

Over 300 women from over 50 countries have become members of the United Mothers community.

Ilva is a founding member, used to be on the Advisory Board and still stays in touch through Coffee Chat online and in person when she can.

"For me it's a place that gives me confidence, place to be listened to, place to speak out, place to learn about many useful things, place to meet different people and cultures.”
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Ilva Marey
Founding Member, United Mothers
Ilva Marey
Ilva Marey
Our Team

We have a fantastic team of volunteers who share sessions, community events and outreach work with us.
Some are Speaking Buddies (see What We Do). 

Image of Beyond the Page team in zoom meeting

This is our team and volunteer non-executive directors:

Dr Sheila Macdonald
Executive Director

Sheila is a qualified and experienced ESOL tutor, social worker, garden designer and researcher (BA Hons (Social Administration), CQSW, CertTesol, EdD).
She is committed to building partnerships with families and across disciplines to offer the most effective and creative teaching and learning practices. She has written and taught on equality issues for over 30 years.

Sara Hutchinson
Director of Operations

Sara has worked in the non profit sector for over fifteen years holding a number of roles from Operations, Business Development, Community Engagement, Strategy and Leadership. She has worked with migrant communities for the majority of this as well as within mental health, housing and health inequalities. She is a qualified ESOL tutor,  is currently training to be a counsellor and is a keen advocate for women’s rights.  She was drawn to Beyond the Page due to the combination of ESOL and Natural Voice techniques with feminist values as a way to engage and create community.

Jodi Watson
Practice Director

Co-founder with Dr Sheila Macdonald of the unique cross methodology that makes the United Mothers project stand out in the participatory ESOL world.
She is a Natural Voice and community arts practitioner passionate about creating safe and enjoyable community gathering spaces where everyone is welcome no matter their age, creed or culture.

Pip Lim
ESOL Facilitator

Pip has worked in education for over 20 years; teaching children in British primary schools and international teenagers and adults in the EFL world. She loves bringing learning to life and making it relevant to her learners. Working at BTP has given her the opportunity to explore different ways of teaching and learning; collaborating with and learning from all those connected to the organisation – staff, volunteers and participants.

Caroline Barratt
ESOL Facilitator

Caroline started at BTP as a volunteer Speaking Buddy when she was changing direction in her career from administration to teaching English. Alongside Speaking Buddies she worked on BTP’s digital literacy project before becoming an ESOL facilitator.

James Robinson
Operations Manager

James has over 10 years of experience in operations across a variety of sectors. He joined Beyond The Page in October 2022 after being drawn to the organisation’s unique and progressive approach to education, community engagement and support for migrant families.

Graham Sykes
IT Support

Graham has been working with BTP since its inception back in 2013.
He has over 25 years experience in IT, video/audio and creates our posters and flyers as well as maintaining the website.
Graham worked for 7 years as a teaching assistant in ESOL classes and with learning disadvantaged adults at Margate Adult Education centre. He very much enjoys being part of a dynamic team that positively impacts the lives of everyone they work with.

Sarah Christie
Non Executive Director

Sarah is a senior academic researcher specialising in work with parents and families. Her key interests lie in the exploration of activities which aim to enhance the life chances of individuals and families who may be at risk of social exclusion, with a focus on the cross section between individual psychology and education and health systems. Sarah currently works in a university research centre dedicated to work involving children, families and communities and has undertaken a range of local, national and international research and evaluation projects.

Amy Jowett
Non Executive Director

Amy has worked in community education in London as an ESOL Teacher for 20 years. She has a particular interest in overcoming barriers to language learning faced by migrant woman. She has participated in various research projects exploring radical pedagogy in the ESOL classroom, including the Act ESOL project with the Serpentine Gallery. She is producer and editor of The ESOL Podcast. She joined Beyond The Page in November 2020 as a non-executive director.

Francesca Alphonso
Non Executive Director

Francesca is Engagement Director for Power of Women, Thanet – an organisation celebrating creativity and championing gender equality in the local area. Relationship building and co-creation is key to her work, developing partnerships with between schools, local organisations and artists to offer an opportunity for creativity within the Thanet community. Francesca is also co-founder of social enterprise, Play Lab Improv, which teaches the practice of improv for personal development, to encourage social cohesion and for the simple joy of it! She is committed to inclusion in the arts for all.

Kasun De Silva
Non Executive Director (Treasurer)

Kasun has over 15 years of experience working within financial services and is a chartered accountant.  Alongside his role at BTP, Kasun also advises a number of community organisations in Kent and East Sussex.

Our Impact

Over 6 years, we have worked in Thanet with almost 300 women from over 50 countries, including those who are in refuges from domestic violence and trafficking; are mentally ill or isolated; have learning difficulties, or other barriers to engaging in social communication; single parents and others with immigration difficulties. As a well-established frontline organisation, we have a strong track record of engaging and building trust with vulnerable minority ethnic women.

“… United Mothers successfully provides women with support and opportunities … women are successfully engaged; diverse, holistic needs are met; and community integration is supported through varied means.”
Canterbury Christ Church University Logo
(External Evaluation, Canterbury Christ Church University 2019).
“My confidence level is up. Now I can face different people as well. It has really helped me. You can see how many from different countries people are over here. Their languages, their style. The main important thing about this group, is that we don’t let anybody down. We are just holding hands. If someone is making a mistake, we are not going to laugh. We are always helping them. This thing, the core of this group has helped me to understand, to face things. Before that, I was afraid of walking the streets, you know, strange faces. But after joining this group, I have many friends. Wherever I am going, I say ‘hello, hi, good morning!’. I am more confident to make friends”
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United Mothers Participant

We have sustained and built our community through the Covid-19 pandemic, offering face to face and online spaces. A walking group, photo project and increased digital access and literacy have developed skills and interests. Online sessions rebuilt valuable social connections, identified Covid-19 information gaps or barriers, supported those vulnerable to scams, discrimination or crisis, such as asylum or risk of eviction and provided an opportunity to practise and develop English skills with friends during these difficult times. We loan tablets and provide training to members and volunteers with limited digital literacy.

Image of audience at Fancy Jamboree event
Community events are an integral component of the practice, and United Mothers members have become increasingly involved in creating and delivering them. Attracting well over a hundred members, friends and visitors each time, they provide a vital bridge into public life and recognition within the wider public arena.

As part of our building community work, we have built relationships with key partners in education, community health and early years, supporting their developing multicultural practices and procedures. This enables our members to access services more easily and helps professional colleagues improve communication skills & confidence.and

“Policies and procedures come and go, but this work is gold dust”
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James Kendall
Previous Head Teacher at Northdown School
“Beyond The Page is a brilliant approach! It is not only language learning but community building, making friendships, growing social capital at the same time.”
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Philippa Burden
Health Visitor and Darzi Fellow in Clinical Leadership, University of Kent

United Mothers members are research participants and advisers to community service providers, increasingly becoming recognised as a valuable resource for those seeking to develop services for local migrant families.

Our pioneering methodology, combining ESOL and Natural Voice/ community arts approaches, is recognised both in the UK and internationally as part of the participatory ESOL approach. We combine a critical pedagogy with a cross-methodological partnership and underlying feminist principles, to offer a unique space in which women can feel safe and thrive.

“Amazing work … inspiring … Sheila’s chapter “Migrant Women, Active Citizens” is on our MA Module ‘Building Learning Communities’ reading list”
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Dr Henning
University of Roehampton

Work with BTP

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For job vacancies,
volunteering information & application forms

please visit our Join Us page

Contact Beyond The Page
Beyond The Page Ltd
Kent Innovation Centre
Thanet Reach Business Park,
Millennium Way,
Broadstairs, Kent
CT10 2QQ
   07516 552928