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Language schools seek support

Reporting on the All Party Parliamentary Group round table: Securing the Future of English Language Teaching in the UK after Covid

To set the scene, this has been a dire, dire situation for the industry since the pandemic started,” said Baron Karan Bilimoria, CBE, who lead the event.

“Student numbers were down 83% in 2020,” Huan Jakes of English UK, reported. “As a result of that, 91% of staff were furloughed or released, so we’re in danger of losing some of the expertise we’ve acquired over the decades.” He went on to explain that English language schools hadn’t been given any rate relief like other industries and, as they were never ordered to close, English UK members were reliant on discretionary grants from their local councils, so it was very much a ‘postcode lottery’ whether language schools had received any support. Further, he said they didn’t expect any real recovery for the industry until summer 2022.

English UK would like the government to do two things: offer targeted business support in the short term, focusing on business rate relief and, in the medium term, provide tailored support for visas, immigration and travel in order to create the best possible operating environment for the industry.

Painting how grim things were, Farhan Quraish, CEO of the Speak Up London language school, said: “At the start of the pandemic we were faced with countless requests for refunds. We saw a mass exodus of our student base, both current and future. We saw key members of staff returning to their home countries. Our income immediately dropped to zero. We had the threat of eviction looming over us, as at this time there was no protection on commercial rents.

“There was also an incorrect perception that we were able to survive by switching our provision from face-to-face to online, but what wasn’t realised is that in order for this to happen we would have to price match with already- established online providers that usually work with freelance teachers outside of the UK.”

It was generally felt that the restrictions and regulations around entry to Britain post-Brexit combined with the heavy blow the pandemic has struck was taking an unbearable toll on private language schools.

MP Paul Blomfield summed up by saying the focus for government had to be on business support and called on the other MPs present to liaise with their secretariat to make representation as a matter of urgency.

Image courtesy of PHOTO FROM SHUTTERSTOCK
Liz Granirer
Liz Granirer
Liz has been a journalist for many years. She is currently editor of EL Gazette and has previously edited the magazines Young Performer, StepForward and Accounting Technician; been deputy editor on Right Start magazine; chief sub editor on Country Homes & Interiors; and sub editor on easyJet Traveller, Lonely Planet and Family Traveller magazines, along with a number of others.
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