English UK members lead the way at hybrid conference
The voice of the membership was at the forefront of our first-ever hybrid members' conference.
The event was intended to get members involved in the association "run by its members and for its members." As our chief executive Jodie Gray explained in her session updating the membership on plans for the near future: "the basic rule of a crisis is that you don't come out of it the same… what today is all about is to set in motion discussions on how the association can come out of this changed for the better."
Ivana Slobodnikova of our insight partners BONARD opened the day by revealing that the pandemic had hit the sector worse than previously understood, with an 83 per cent drop in student numbers – before outlining the scope of an upcoming report on how the European market may evolve in the future.
Jodie explained how the association had pivoted to meet the needs of members after Covid-19 hit, with more online discussion, focussed training and intelligence, promotion and the recovery roadmap, and a huge amount of lobbying. She concluded: "We are on your side. We are by your side. We work for you."
Members also had small group discussions with trustees to feedback on their priorities and what was working well, followed by a moving session of videos and live presentations of stories from the last year.
Finally, diversity and inclusion specialist Asif Sadiq MBE of WarnerMedia talked about how and why organisations should embrace these ideas.
Four new English UK board members were elected: Jago Brown, Stefan Roussounis, Leon Zhang and Tim Cooke, and Shoko Doherty was re-elected for a second term. Chair Steve Phillips, stepping down after a decade as a trustee, said it had been an "extraordinary year, an impossible year," adding: "Together we can achieve great things and those can start today."
The format of the day – English UK's first-ever hybrid event, with a small in-person Covid-19-secure conference held at the Hilton London Tower Bridge joined by some members, with many more joining via Zoom – was popular. Sarah Tomlinson of ISCA School of English, said: "Being based in Exeter, this was so much easier than coming to London. It's been really great to be able to take part. It's lovely to see everybody face to face but this has been really nice." Sarah Etchells, of English Country Schools said: "As a hybrid participant I felt at all times that I was in the room and very much part of the event."
Delegates felt that the conference really captured the supportive community spirit of the association that has and continues to sustain members during these most difficult times. Spencer Fordham of Capital School of English in Bournemouth said: "If there was ever a time to hold an event like this it is now. Incredible to meet in person and engagement both in person and online. Lots of great takeaways and well done to the whole team for the perfect balance and expert insights." Kevin McNally of International House Torquay reflected: "These days, we need our sense of community more than ever and the conference reinforced to me to what a positive and supportive industry we all belong."
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