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Will English UK plan garner Tory press support?

English UK, the association of language centers accredited in association with the British Council, has produced a thought-provoking position paper designed to take the UK back to number one as a destination for English Language learners. The paper, which is to be launched at a parliamentary reception in May, is unlikely to find a warm welcome from the current government if it involves students staying for more than twelve months and thus inflating Net Migration figures.

However, strong support in the ‘Tory Press’ as right-leaning newspapers are known, could well boost their chances of success.

Two of the associations’ ‘asks’ – a group travel scheme for children and the acceptance of the travel list scheme – are designed to make it easier for European school groups to come. A campaign for this the educational travel industry, has already drawn a great deal of press support. The Financial Times has run several articles while the Sunday Times also splashing on the story. Even the Brexit fanatics at the Daily Mail have been sympathetic, quoting the view of a French agent that: “We are in 2023, not 1400. It’s a little bit as though they [the government] think they are still in the Hundred Years’ War.’

Their demand to increase the Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) is unlikely to cause press pushback. The recent announcement of a new scheme for Indians was seen in the right-wing media as a necessary evil to get a trade deal through. The current government. however, likely to be wary a since they YMS visas last for more than one year and so impact net migration.

English UK’s key demand, that all language students be allowed to work, is critical if the UK is to compete for the adult long stay market. It is unlikely, however, to be popular while the suggestion it should include EU students may cause outrage. Ironically, as long as student work visa lasts less than 12 months, UK governments may be more amenable because it won’t push Net migration figures up.

The proposal likely to cause the most press outrage, however, is the idea of shipping in EU workers for English UK’s residential summer schools. English UK points out that before Brexit half of all activity leaders came from Europe. To which the press may simply respond: why?  The UK currently has 2.9 million university students, all with work rights, most looking for summer jobs.  If the industry can’t find a thousand or so students to work for them this summer, it’s probably because they don’t pay enough.

And as for importing foreign English Language teachers, tory hacks would have a field day. “UK language school ship in Greeks to teach foreign kids English,’ the headlines will howl. And since Greek sources report that at least one (unnamed) UK school will be doing just that this summer, we may not have to wait long.

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Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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