Ten things we learned at the 2024 ELT conference
7 March 2024

Ten things we learned at the 2024 ELT conference

Academic managers and ELT teachers joined us at the English UK ELT Conference in London on Friday 1 and Saturday 2 March.

Topics included teacher recruitment, the future of the English language, equality and diversity and using AI in the classroom.

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If you missed the conference, here are ten things we learned:

1. Review your onboarding for new teachers to improve retention

Munir Mamujee of m2r Education specialises in teacher recruitment. He advised language centres to review their onboarding process to ensure new recruits have a positive impression from the start.

"It's one thing hiring them… it's another keeping them", he said. He stressed the importance of a smooth application and interview process, and ensuring interviewers inspire confidence. He also recommended keeping in touch with teachers between job offer and start date, and having touchpoints for new staff to talk about CPD.

2. Make friends with teacher training centres for a new teacher pipeline

Joel Cutting from Cambridge University Press & Assessment recommended that ELT centres build relationships with teacher training centres to improve their pipeline of new teachers.

"There is a conveyor belt of teachers coming through. Cambridge has 70 or 80 teaching centres across the UK".

3. The new AccessTEFL qualification will allow new teachers to train while they earn

English UK is launching a new teacher training programme which will allow new ELT teachers to get qualified while working at a UK language centre.

The AccessTEFL qualification will be accepted under Accreditation UK criteria for teacher recruitment.

Thom Kiddle from NILE, who will moderate the programme, said: "This is an exciting development taking teacher learning into an immersive, supported professional development context".

4. Check your EDI policy is working

Varinder Unlu from Stafford House encouraged us to question and check our conscious and unconscious biases honestly. "Are we presenting a welcoming voice or face?" she asked.

Talking about diversity in the workplace, she said ELT centres need to have realistic EDI policies and reviews to check if that policy is working.

5. Keep rainbow flags flying all year round

Our 'Beyond Pinkwashing' panel shared tips for effectively supporting LGBTQIA+ students and colleagues.

Steve Tulk of Stafford House encourages ELT centres to keep the rainbow flying year-round. "That flag is a sign this is a safe space", he said. "We had a student come to us because a rainbow on a backpack in one of our photos made them feel it would be a safe space."

Other suggestions included having an LGBTQIA+ information board and taking the lead from queer students and staff when it comes to inclusive language.

6. No more compliance-only inspections from Accreditation UK

Liz McLaren, manager of Accreditation UK, confirmed the end of the compliance-only inspections which were introduced in response to the pandemic.

7. How to support teachers of refugees and asylum seekers

Madiha Sultan and Ilaria Tarulli from RefuAid spoke about the unique challenges and rewards of integrating refugees and asylum seekers into the ELT classroom.

Their suggestions included one-to-one inductions for students to discuss boundaries and expectations. The teacher might want, in some situations, to avoid classroom discussions about family or allow opt-outs from some sessions. Teachers should be aware of specific challenges like a lack of a quiet study space or difficulty adapting to an unfamiliar learning environment.

The RefuAid team are working on specialist advice and guidance for teachers and language centre staff.

8. AI isn't about to make all teachers redundant (but it will almost inevitably change your job)

Three of our speakers shared their views on AI and the future of English language teaching.

Steve Copeland, from the British Council, said: "Our research decided teachers will have a central but changed role in English language teaching systems". He predicted that AI tools would be "utilised and guided by teachers to offer the maximum benefit, not as a replacement." He stressed that training is necessary to remain central to the learning process.

Neil Harris from CELT in Cardiff talked about using AI responsibly and said we should "layer experience and expertise and consider our learners to make sure AI materials don't contain any awful hallucinations. It's great to use technology but let's put pedagogy first."

Alex Asher from LearnCube, compared the high-tech classroom of the future to an aircraft, which will always need a pilot to take part in the critical decisions and reassure passengers.

In the classroom of the future, he said, "AI will be more of a co-pilot but in the assistant role, continually tracking where the student is and feeding back to the teacher. The teacher will be doing critical judgment calls, emotional intelligence, and reassurance. They will be engaging, and motivating, ensuring learners stay on course."

9. Be the teacher who celebrates language as it emerges

Leandra Dias Meddings from Wimbledon School of English said that moments of emergent language in the classroom should be celebrated and explored during a lesson:

"The reason we have to deal with emerging language is that it's organic language…Sometimes the language our students need is not the language we plan for and that's okay", she said.

10. Everyone loves children's author Michael Rosen

Children's Laureate Michael Rosen started his talk by analysing the grammar of the opening pages of his iconic picture book We're Going on a Bear Hunt.

Michael talked about learning French through rude songs and family holidays, learning Yiddish at home and much more. So many people wanted him to sign books, get a selfie or shake his hand that he didn't leave for almost an hour after his session ended.

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View the full programme >>

Members' Conference and AGM 2024

Join us at our 2024 member's conference on Friday 17 May in London and online

Share experiences with other UK ELT leaders and help shape the direction of your association.

Members' Conference info and registration >>

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