Our History


“A project that grew out of a smile.”

English for Women was started by Heike Prentice, an Ordinand at Chelmsford Cathedral, in November 2015 after a chance meeting with a family from Afghanistan. The husband could speak English but the wife could not and, with a young family, was less likely to have the opportunity to learn.

Heike realised that, without English language, isolation was a very real threat that could be a barrier to making friends, accessing services and being part of the local community, and so set up English for Women.

At the first session, Heike welcomed women from three families to a small session which provided a safe and welcoming space. Further women joined and the project soon outgrew the learning centre provided by Chelmsford Cathedral.

English for Women then spent the next year running sessions from an office that was ear-marked for development and, due to the space, the project was able to support an ever-growing need which saw women from over 25 nationalities join the community.

In September 2017, English for Women opened for the Autumn term from YMCA, Chelmsford where we currently support approximately 100 women per term from over 30 nationalities. As the project grew, it became apparent that there were simliar needs elsewhere and in October 2019, English for Women Harwich opened its doors for the first time. At the same time, in response to requests to run a session for men, English for All also held its first session. In February 2020, English for Women extended its reach yet further and opened in Goodmayes, Ilford.

Chelmsford Cathedral supported English for Women from its inception, allowing the project to grow and flourish as the need grew, and continues to support the project today.

In January 2018 Chelmsford Cathedral handed the project on to Chelmsford Diocese Mothers’ Union who it was felt could provide a more focussed level of support as the project continued to grow.

Chelmsford Diocese Mothers’ Union provide support, networks and guidance enabling English for Women to continue to provide a warm and welcoming space to a growing number of women who have little or no English language.