An innovative English UK fair which included Italian secondary school teachers as well as agents and member centres was so popular that extra places had to be created to help meet demand.
The fair, in Milan, was designed to use the power of school teachers as influencers by giving them more information on studying with English UK member centres, before introducing them to educators and reputable Italian agents.
"This was a first for us, and it worked so well we're planning a similar event in Spain for 2018," said Roz Rozidor, English UK's market development manager who organised the two-day event.
"The first day included workshops specifically designed to support the skills of the English teachers, and they found it really useful to be able to find out more about our member centres where they might choose to send their classes or PON groups, as well as making contact with good agents who can support them.
"We're getting excellent feedback, and demand was so high that we made extra places available for all three groups!"
The fair followed a new format, starting with an afternoon of professional development for teachers. The seminars included an overview of studying English in the UK and issues such as safeguarding, talks from representatives of the Italian Ministry of Education and its institute for research and innovation INDIRE on professional standards and CLIL, and a practical continuing professional development session run by Fiona Dunlop, a London-based teacher trainer.
There followed a reception and dinner where the teachers, member centres and agents were encouraged to mix and talk. The following day was a classic agent workshop with appointments between agents, educators and exhibitors.
Both agents and educators liked the format, with 100 per cent of the agents rating it as either good or excellent. Lorenzo Agati, president of the Italian agent association, IALCA, agreed, saying: "The way the event was structured - with the possibility of interactions between UK language centres, Italian agents and teachers - was a unique opportunity to exchange experiences and views on the complex world of ELT at all levels."
Agent comments included: "My first experience of an English UK workshop has been fully positive in terms of making new contacts and refreshing old ones in a friendly atmosphere. The location is perfect and the number of schools ideal," and "The teaching centres present were really good and their representatives didn't just introduce their schools, but they also wanted to learn from us what kinds of goals we would like our customers to achieve."
More than 60 per cent of the agents said that, as a result of their attendance, they felt more confident promoting UK schools, colleges and universities and over 80 per cent were considering working with one or more of the centres they met, with the remainder unsure. All educators and exhibitors said the quality of the agents present and the potential for new partnership was good or excellent.
Educator Grainne Casey from International House Aberdeen said: "I found the Fair extremely well organised and had an interesting format. Overall, I thought it worked well." Janette Donjon from Sunderland College commented: "The English UK Fair in Milan met all of my expectations. The event was well organised, the agents were very knowledgeable about the sector and the venue was perfectly situated in the centre of Milan. The hotel staff were courteous and the food was very good.