Friends of Accreditation UK celebrate its birthday
6 September 2022

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Friends of Accreditation UK celebrate its birthday 

40 years of the world's oldest ELT accreditation scheme and the first post-pandemic summer for the UK industry were both celebrated in an event in London at the weekend. 

The dinner at Church House in Westminster was attended by staff and volunteers who have worked with Accreditation UK since 1982 as well as representatives from the wider industry and around 50 study abroad agents on the eve of the first English UK fam trips since 2019.  

Welcoming international partners back to the UK

Jodie Gray, our chief executive, said she was particularly pleased to welcome our friends and international agent partners from around the world back to the UK, adding: "This evening's dinner not only kicks off our celebration of 40 years of assuring excellence in UK ELT, but also marks the end of a first summer of post pandemic recovery. It hasn't been without its challenges, for sure, but it has been wonderful to see language teaching classrooms full again, and a busy few months of inspections for Accreditation UK. 

"Recovery would not be possible without the support of our international partners. We thank you for your partnership over the last forty years, and particularly over the last very difficult pandemic years, and into the future. 

"It's about collaboration and partnership and one silver lining of the last two dreadful years is that collaboration has become stronger than ever before. I am excited to see what the future holds."  

Accreditation UK - a chain of trust

Paolo Barilari of IALCA, the Italian agency association, and FELCA, the global federation of agent associations, talked about how he no longer used TripAdvisor ratings to choose a restaurant, adding: "When it is time to spend many more pounds on something like education it is very important to have something you can trust, a reliable source and that's what the British Council has given agents – and English UK of course. When a student comes to the agent he must trust the agent and when the agent sees a school he must trust the rankings. Over the years we've built a chain of trust. I wish you another 40 years of happy inspecting and bringing good quality to all of us." 

Appetite to study in the UK

Cherry Gough, the former manager of the scheme who went on to be a country director for the British Council, said she had seen the enormous appetite for English and studying in the UK.  

In Turkey, despite inflation running at 80%, applications to study were above pre-Covid levels and she said she was impressed by the resilience of the industry despite the really hard times it had been through. "The dynamism of the UK industry is visible around the world with a clear focus on quality," she said. 

She said managing Accreditation UK in the early days had not been the easiest job in the world with some uneasy relationships, but working with current manager Liz McLaren and the rest of the team had increased inclusivity and led to the partnership with English UK and the "really positive changes" that partnership had brought. "I am really grateful to have this chance to congratulate everyone in Accreditation UK who has built this framework, unique around the world, supporting the quality and reputation of UK ELT through good times and bad - congratulations to everyone and let's keep this going."

Elizabeth McLaren, Accreditation UK's manager who has worked in the unit for 30 years, described it as a masterpiece of many brushstrokes. Mike Welch, the British Council's Director Global Operations, Teaching, thanked the team for their hard work and said it had been a challenging year with Covid-19, rail strikes and heatwaves.  

Accreditation UK inspectors - critical friends working together

Joint senior inspector Rhona Hodgart talked about how the scheme had risen to the challenges in turbulent times, and the importance of students having the best possible experience in schools inspected by Accreditation UK. "We are there as critical friends working together: we all come from same sector with many years experience as managers and teachers and we're here to be supportive to the institutes and individuals in them," she said, adding that quality enhancement and the best possible experience for students came when the sector and inspectors worked together.

Speaking later, George Pickering, also joint senior inspector, said: there were trade offs between quality and quantity but not in Accreditation UK. "It is the biggest scheme in the world and the highest quality scheme in the world - it's the biggest and the best." 

Timothy Blake, chairman of The London School of English who has been involved in the scheme's executive board, said Accreditation UK had benefited from the involvement of people with actual experience of running schools. "That partnership is the reason why the scheme is a success. It would appear that the Home Office thought it was not sufficiently arms' length but in my view it was the opposite… school representatives were almost always the toughest when it came to reports and the quality of the organisation being inspected. I look forward to the day when our scheme, to which hundreds of people have given thousands of hours is given the recognition it deserves in all quarters." 

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