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Home2020 IssuesMPs call for help as third of UK Language schools face closure

MPs call for help as third of UK Language schools face closure

An estimated thirty per cent of UK language schools are not expected to survive the summer, British parliamentarians heard during a debate on the effects of Covid-19 on the industry which took place on 1 July in the House of Commons.

Caroline Ansell, MP for Eastbourne, called the adjournment debate, a short debate which takes place at the end of a parliamentary day. The ELT industry had felt the effects of Covid-19 early, with “two of its major markets – China and Italy” closed down at the beginning pandemic, she noted, adding that, unlike a lot of other industries, ELT has “no domestic market to pivot to.”

Most of the Members of Parliament (MPs) were part of the governing Conservative party. They each referred to schools affected by Covid-19 in their constituencies – East Sussex College in Hastings, Wimbledon School of English, Embassy CES Wimbledon, English in Totnes and Totnes European School all got a mention. For the opposition, Scottish National Party MP Alison Thewliss named Live Language School in Central Glasgow.

MPs also heard that 90 per cent of the estimated 35,000 staff in the UK ELT industry were on the government coronavirus furlough scheme. Nor was there any immediate prospect of the UK’s language schools fully re-opening while “international competition like Malta had already lifted quarantine.” (Restrictions on travel from many countries to the UK have since been lifted).

Some language schools have benefitted from emergency interest-free ‘bounce-back loans’, noted Ansell. Most have also applied for relief from business rates (local government taxes), but only a minority of language schools have succeeded, with most local authorities interpreting government guidance that rates relief is only for ‘retail, hospitality and leisure businesses.’ Ansell called for clarification on this.

Responding for calls to support the ELT sector, Graham Stuart MP, Parliamentary Undersecretary at the Department for International Trade said he was coordinating with other government departments “as best I can to champion the sector.”

He believed that despite coronavirus, the UK is still on track to achieve its target of receiving 600,000 international students a year by 2030.

© Matt Salusbury

Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Matt Salusbury
Matt Salusbury
MATT SALUSBURY, news editor and journalist, has worked for EL Gazette since 2007. He is also joint Chair of the London Freelance Branch of the National Union of Journalists and co-edits its newsletter, the Freelance. He taught English language for 15 years in the Netherlands, in Turkey, in a North London further education college and now as an English for Academic Purposes tutor, most recently at the London School of Economics. He is a native English speaker and is also fluent in Dutch.
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