Fond farewell to English UK's Tom and Tim
4 August 2021

Tom and tim 600

Fond farewell to English UK's Tom and Tim

We are losing two members of the English UK team this month – and by an amazing coincidence, both are going to train as secondary history teachers.

Tom Weatherley and Tim Barker have both spent their professional lives in ELT, Tom starting as a graduate English teacher and Tim taking his first steps as a teen in his mother's Devon language school. Now with over 30 years' experience between them, both are well-known in ELT and to members, with Tom our conference producer and Tim business development director.

If you would like to leave Tom and/or Tim a farewell message we have created an online message board to help gather members' comments and best wishes. The board will remain open until 17:00 on Friday 13 August.

"We will all miss Tim and Tom dearly, as colleagues and friends," said English UK chief executive Jodie Gray. "Their contributions to the English UK team have been huge, and never more so than over the last 15 months. It's a bittersweet moment, but so lovely to think that they have been inspired by working among such brilliant educators for so long. We wish them well in their exciting career change. Any student will be lucky to have Mr Barker or Mr Weatherley for history next term."

So before we lose them to year 9 - what do they think about ELT? Why are they changing career? What do they think the future holds?

How did you get into ELT?

Tim: "I've been in ELT since I was probably too young, as my mum owns Totnes School of English (now English in Totnes). I used to hang out with the teenage groups in the summer and became an activity leader. My first paying job was going to London on the coach and bringing students back to Devon. I started properly when I was travelling round Europe after my degree and ran out of money in Helsinki. My mum rang and asked if I'd be able to do two marketing conferences she'd signed up for but couldn't attend. They were in Tokyo and St Petersburg so my attitude was: why would I not want to do that? I went back to the school, did some training and had a complete car crash of an event in St Petersburg bewildering Russian agents – I learnt the hard way that selling is more about listening than talking! ."

Tom: "After I left university I became an ELT teacher in Russia, Portugal and the UK– I wanted to travel and found I really enjoyed teaching although it was incredibly difficult at the start and I really struggled, but you put the work in and I ended up being (I think) a reasonable teacher."

What brought you to English UK?

Tom: "I really liked teaching but wasn't really sure I wanted to be a DOS so when I saw the advert for a training organiser for English UK I fancied seeing what it was like from that side so I applied."

Tim: "Totnes School of English became part of a loose affiliation with others. I was hired to work on that, and learned a lot and worked in different roles over six or seven years. When the group decided to fold up I decided it was a good time to do something different so I did a Celta at IH London, really enjoyed it and went to teach in Vietnam, later joining the management team.

"When I came back English UK was hiring, and my initial commercial StudyWorld role grew into a wider business development one."

Why teaching? Why now?

Tim: "At English UK authenticity and being yourself is really encouraged and that supported me to start thinking what I was passionate about and the imprint I wanted to have on peoples' lives. The trigger point was talking to my partner about comprehensive education, which she said was the first time she had heard me being passionate and emotional – so I decided to follow the passion and emotion. I am passionate about giving people opportunities and levelling up our society in whatever way we can and I see teaching as a step in that."

Tom: "I've been thinking about it for a long time and if not now, when? Teaching was my first job, I always thought there was a teacher in me.. I think I've done my best work for the association in the pandemic, but when I went on furlough I did have time to think about where life was going and what I wanted to achieve, and it feels like now is a good time to try."

As you leave the industry and English UK, what are your thoughts?

Tom: "Many people are doing really fantastic work and focusing on effective learning – I think it's a strong sector with a really strong academic base and English UK is an important part of that. Over time our events have increased in quality and feedback for the last few has been exceptionally high, which I put down to the full team working together and focusing on doing the best possible for members under difficult circumstances.

"The pandemic came out of nowhere but the English UK response didn't: we are adaptable, resilient, focus on members and work extremely hard and were the right team for the pandemic. This are an exceptional team and that's what I'll miss. They reflect the industry in the main - a nice friendly people-oriented bunch."

Tim: "It's said that ELT is a people industry. That's massively my experience and why I worked in it as long as I have. The people in schools and agencies are so good – in the sense of being welcoming to newcomers, having their morals in the right place, and what they're trying to achieve – that it's hard to think about doing something else. That primary aim of general betterment helped me stay in a business environment for longer than I might have originally intended."

Any final messages for English UK members?

Tom: "You've always been stronger together and that's the case more than ever. There is going to be a recovery and English UK is working extremely hard for all its members so I'd encourage everyone to support the association and each other – that's the way to get through and recover as strongly as possible. Also – thank you for all the feedback and comments which I've always appreciated."

Tim: "It's been such a hard year for everybody - try and keep going but don't be afraid to continue to be vulnerable. We've all learned over the last year that that's a superpower. Remain part of this supportive community even when students start flowing back. Our sector has started to consider how to become a fairer and more inclusive industry to study and work in which is fantastic and that can continue - we should think about building rather than surviving."

Next steps?

Tom: "Working four days a week in a London secondary with one day in college, learning how to teach will be a huge change but I'm looking forward to the challenge...I think!. I am excited to see where this new education path will go."

Tim: "A few weeks' holiday where I will finally meet my partner's family in Hungary before starting my PGCE at the Institute of Education for a year, after which I will hopefully be a qualified history teacher and find someone to take me on. History teaching isn't about what happened when, but teaching people how to think. I find kids fun and I am very excited about it."

Any memorable moments?

Tim: "Some of the fantastic overseas fairs I did as an English UK member – hanging out with camels in Oman and stepping on agents' toes dancing in Vienna were massive highlights. You have to pinch yourself when you're in your 20s and your friends are stuck in grey offices and you are having these incredible international experiences – though there's also dragging ELT brochures round Milan after a dodgy 7am flight. Getting to know the English UK team was great – they are passionate, committed people who are doing the best thing for members and the sector. And finally, being behind the scenes at StudyWorld and seeing all the work that goes into it."

Tom: "I am proudest of our recent ELT conference, which was hugely helped by the team's diverse backgrounds, experience – and their administrative excellence. Our programme included sessions on some difficult issues for our industry - diversity and inclusion, the climate crisis, the situation of teachers of English who are native speakers of other languages, and more - and it really, really connected with people. Another thing I'm proud of is being a small part of the pandemic response. I think the English UK team has excelled itself and given one of the best 'pandemic responses' of any association - free webinars, guidance documents, relentless lobbying, lots of opportunity for contact and communication and more. It's extremely well set up for the recovery with low cost events, market expertise, and has the ear of trade teams in government. I'm sad to be stepping off those journeys but I know there is more to come, and great conferences in the future.

"And there was also my first overseas event, which I took over after it was organised. The hotel had double-booked us with a wedding so we had people doing business meetings while the staff were spraying rose petals all over the place and the bride and groom were looking on, not entirely happy if I'm honest. We were shoving laptops in bags as the bride's makeup was being done and members in the room started collapsing tables and loading trolleys to help – and at 3am Jodie and I went back and set it all up again."

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