UK ELT celebrates 40 years of quality scheme
The 40th anniversary of Accreditation UK, the internationally-renowned inspection scheme for UK ELT, is being marked by the industry this autumn.
This week, around 50 study abroad agents will see the scheme's work for themselves when they join the first English UK fam trips since before the pandemic.
They are also attending a dinner with other industry guests including British Council officials, English UK staff and members involved with the scheme and the fam trips plus Department for International Trade representatives.
The UK's international education champion, Sir Steve Smith, was speaking at the event, which with the fam trips was funded by the Department for International Trade and IELTS to promote UK ELT post-pandemic.
Sir Steve said: "The UK has unrivalled experience in English language teaching, with over 100 years of designing, developing and evaluating the process of learning English; and developing the first English as a Foreign Language teacher-training courses in the 1960s.
"And the UK remains at the forefront of developing educational resources that help English language learners and teachers to achieve their goals using innovative content, methods or media.
"From summer courses to year-round provision, from young learners to business executives, from general English to English for Specific Purposes, the English language offer from 350-plus English UK members across the UK is underpinned by quality, rigorous inspection and continual improvement achieved by robust external inspection, spot checks and self-declarations, with inspection reports being publicly available.
"The importance of accreditation and quality assurance to the UK ELT offer, and the UK education offer more broadly for that matter, cannot be overstated."
Accreditation UK, which is jointly run by the British Council and English UK, has driven up standards in the UK's ELT sector since taking over from government inspections, extending the industry's global reputation for quality. It is also widely credited with raising standards of English language teaching in competitor nations.
A great strength of Accreditation UK is that although it is independent, working industry representatives sit on both the accreditation board and the Accreditation Scheme Advisory Committee which scrutinises inspection reports before approval.
Mike Welch Director Global Operations, Teaching, British Council said: "Accreditation has had an enormous impact and positive effect on the ELT sector. It gives course providers the recognition they deserve for the work they do to put students from all over the world at the centre of their work. Accreditation has progressed from the Recognition Scheme and the Courses Validation Scheme to Accreditation UK which is now an internationally recognised standard; a mark of quality that demonstrates a commitment by providers to listen and respond to the needs of stakeholders and students.
"The Accreditation mark gives an assurance of quality to students who are taking or are planning to take an English language course in the UK and ensures that they benefit from studying in a safe environment.
"Over the years, accreditation has raised standards and driven excellence so students visiting the UK have a great experience, which in turn leads to a strengthening of the ELT sector and ultimately provides benefit to Britain.
This anniversary is an occasion to celebrate the enduring impact that accreditation has made over the last forty years, and how it has shaped and improved the sector."
Jodie Gray, English UK's chief executive, said: "We are very proud to celebrate 40 years of Accreditation UK which has supported our industry to drive up standards, achieve excellence and an international reputation which is second to none.
"Student experience is at the heart of our offer. Accreditation UK's focus on academic and management quality, as well as standards of care and safeguarding, means our schools are trusted by parents all over the world and students leave wanting to return.
"Accreditation UK works so well because of its unique structure: it is proudly independent but its work is informed by people who work in the sector and understand what our ELT centres and teachers do every day of the week."
Accreditation UK focuses on English language teaching but has developed to oversee most elements of centres' provision in teaching, management and welfare. Providing a safe environment and safeguarding under-18s are now particularly important elements.
Andrew Hjort, principal of Melton College in York who has been involved with the scheme for over 25 years, said: "Accreditation UK has without question changed the student experience in the UK. The holistic nature of the scheme - not just management, not just teaching, not just welfare, not just premises - has ensured a sense of confidence in clients, and importantly for the growing junior sector, their parents.
"It's the most widely recognised logo in the world of ELT accreditation. It has made Accreditation an inevitable question. Clients want to know if you are – or, I guess, why you are not!"
Elizabeth McLaren, Accreditation UK's manager, said its most important effect had been to professionalise and unify UK ELT to give students a wide choice of high-quality courses in a range of settings. "I'm sure the students I taught as an unqualified and inexperienced teacher at an unaccredited language centre in Europe before I started work with the British Council would have had a much better learning experience had the school been run according to British Council accreditation standards," she said.
Shoko Doherty, CEO of Celtic English Academy in Cardiff and former ELT student said: "The Accreditation UK handbook and the British Council criteria have been the go-to for our organisation. I love the British Council inspections: it is the opportunity for us to see how good we are and identify where we can improve ourselves by getting lots of constructive feedback from inspectors.
"You speak to many agents around the world and they recognise high standard of the British accreditation scheme. Comparing and discussing with colleagues in Japan it really highlighted how comprehensive the Accreditation UK scheme is and I was quite proud to find out the differences."
Study abroad agent Tatsu Hoshino of the Rising Star agency and JAOS said: "We believe the ELT accreditation system runs by Accreditation UK is the most comprehensive scheme of this kind in the world. Therefore, education agents can easily gain full confidence to introduce the accredited ELT schools in UK."
Accreditation UK began in 1982 when the government's education department stopped inspecting private language schools and the British Council became the recognising body for all UK ELT. The inspection scheme was called the English Language Schools Recognition Scheme, while the Courses Validation Scheme was developed for state sector providers.
William Currie, the chairman of the Association of Recognised English Language Schools (ARELS) said: "The announcement of the Council's Recognition Scheme is, to my mind, of the greatest significance for the profession and, speaking for the ARELS sector, I congratulate the Council on taking on this important responsibility."
The schemes merged to become the English in Britain Accreditation Scheme in 1998 and finally Accreditation UK in April 2006.
Changes to the visa regulations in 2009 resulted in increased demand for accreditation with numbers peaking at over 570 in autumn 2014. There are now just over 400 accredited providers, with demand continuing from new applicants.
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