English UK Covid-19 FAQ's

Last updated: Monday 23 March 2020

English UK Covid-19 FAQ's

What are the VAT implications of delivering lessons online? Does it make a difference whether they are delivered synchronously or asynchronously?

If you are teaching a live lesson it's an educational experience and no VAT is charged back in the UK. If you're sending the students a pre-recorded lesson or a lesson that is in some way automated with no or minimal human intervention then it is classed as a digital service in which case VAT may be charged.


At what point does our duty of care to our teenage students under-18 kick and require us to close our summer seasons?

We suggest is that you delay the point of confirmation as late as possible into May for example, and at that point depending on the situation that is evolved at that point decide whether you can run the summer school and accept the bookings.


Is there any news about the grant for small businesses in the budget?

The Chancellor in his 2020 Budget laid out measures to help businesses and one was a business rates holiday for those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors. It is capped to businesses working out of premises rated at £51k and below and this was a holiday, so 100 per cent discount on those rates.

This came up in our ELT task force meeting with government departments about the current crisis and its impact on the ELT sector. We used the data from our member impact survey, explained our industry is facing an existential threat, and raised a number of points and areas where the government could be helping them more and this was one of them.

This scheme doesn't apply at the moment to the ELT industry, and some will be paying higher rates because your premises are larger.

Our appeal to the government was that this scheme should be extended to the ELT sector and organisations of all sizes, and we have also raised this with trade minister Conor Burns during a constituency meeting in Bournemouth, which we later followed up with more information.

The cross-departmental ELT task force has also written to DIT ministers raising this specific issue. We don't have any news yet, but we are pushing hard on this point and we will share any updates. 


What is the policy about Accreditation UK inspections this summer?

We have been in regular touch with the Accreditation Unit which runs the scheme at the British Council and they will be announcing that inspections will be postponed for the time being. They will be in touch with anyone who is due for an inspection. They will discuss whether you would prefer to go ahead because you happen to still have students but as a general policy, inspections will be postponed and accreditation will continue to stand regardless of whether you're due an inspection. The unit will continue to monitor the situation closely as we move through the summer and we'll look at how they might be able to expedite inspections in order to avoid a huge backlog once the sector and the country is back up and running again. 

The Unit is completely aware of what is going on and are very flexible and want to support the industry in whatever way that they can.


What is the legal situation for paying teaching staff if there is no face-to-face teaching?

Watch our HR webinar, broadcast on 18 March. Also Best Start are doing an HR Q&A on Friday 20 March.


Some students have panicked and left the country without prior notice and are demanding a refund. What would be the most appropriate reaction?

If the students are have left they are showing disinclination to continue with their studies so you do not need to offer them a refund over and above your normal terms and conditions. You could offer some alternative if you wish to do so, but the legal position is quite clear that you are not required to offer them a refund and you'll find that in the TravLaw information on our website.


On insurance, is it basically good luck with your own policy wording?

Some centres have business Interruption insurance, and some of these Insurance schemes will include pandemic cover. English UK is pressurising government to ask underwriters to include Covid-19 in the list of specified diseases for cover purposes. If this is successful the insurance would pay if you have business Interruption insurance.


Is there any advice about providing lessons online?

We have run two webinars on this: find the links on our coronavirus webpage.


Are there any sources of financial help for short-term survival other than banks?

The British Business Bank as an entity in the budget the Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme (CBILS) is available which enables you to borrow between £1000 and £1.2m (now £5m) depending on your circumstances. This is a government-backed loan which means that lenders are more likely to give you the money. 


Will schools be expected to maintain boarding provision even if they are closed for education?

If the school is closed for educational purposes the boarding unit will need to remain open as part of your duty of care for students. You could also outsource accommodation, for instance to guardians.


Is the Safer Recruitment workshop in Manchester still running?

English UK training days in March and April will be moved online where possible. Others will be postponed until later in the year and the training team will be sending out information updates to all attendees if they haven't done so already. We anticipate there will be no training taking place face to face at the moment.


How is English UK working with the government to avoid serious consequences for the summer school industry?

We are working with government in several ways including through an ELT task force with the DIT, DfE, Home Office, and BEIS which was convened at our request by the DIT, our main supporting department within government. We made them aware of the enormously devastating impact that the Coronavirus outbreak is already having and will continue to have on our industry, which is very different from other parts of the education sector. We will continue to meet with that task force online or in person. We are also meeting MPs including Conor Burns who is the Trade Minister. We have also created a template letter so that English UK members can write to their MPs to ask for help, specifically around the business rates relief initiative.

A letter has been sent to the Treasury from the Department of international trade asking them to urgently look at the issues that were raised and we're also going to be putting out a letter to the Prime Minister as well outlining our concerns and the measures that we believe government should be taking to alleviate them. This is all ongoing work and we will keep you updated.


What extra measures should schools have in place this summer to deal with Covid-19?

We have put emergency planning documents on our website for members and we suggest you work through these.


What about agents pushing to get full refunds: how can we be sure that they are not charging their clients?

When we started out back in February with the Chinese travel ban maybe members were more flexible but as this outbreak has affected every single source market for ELT that level of flexibility is no longer possible. We have specialist guidance from TravLaw on our Coronavirus webpage that lays out the position about what you need to do in terms of refunds. 


Would moving to online teaching mean students are entitled to a refund?

The TravLaw document states that a significant change to delivery would mean students are entitled to a refund and asking us if you're moving to online could that would mean students would be entitled to a refund. Yes, we can we can take this up with TravLaw and provide that update as soon as it's available.


Is there an update regarding the Saudis situation with flights closed? 

We will follow up with the Saudi Cultural Bureau.


When is the safeguarding guidance and closure period guidance likely to be shared?

We are adding to our emergency planning document and will look at that particular issue of how you would ensure your students are safe throughout a closure period especially if they have to stay in the UK for the entirety of that period.


Can we push for the Saudi Cultural Bureau to accept online learning of sponsored students?

JG: I think that's a good point and we can definitely follow up the Saudi Arabia cultural Bureau about that.


What about alternatives to host families if self-isolation is needed? 

We are we're looking at what the alternatives might be: we could talk with regional groups because there could be a number of schools working together to have shared facilities. For instance, they might identify certain homes that could be shared between schools for the purposes of self-isolation or indeed might be residential options for that as well.


Is it seen as reasonable to retain fees in compensation for online delivery – the idea is a partial refund?

We'll take that up with TravLaw to see if that means a substantial change to your provision and so therefore over a whole or partial refund would be required. 


What support is available to subject-based summer programs like Oxford Brown and Oxford summer courses where English teaching is not the main focus of the program?

The two main areas of support are the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme that we mentioned from the British business bank for which these courses would be eligible, and the business rates relief holiday, which we are lobbying to be extended to ELT.


Will sponsored students stay sponsored for online courses?

We don't know the answer to that but will find out.


Should we revise our refund policy for school applicants adding a Covid-19 clause to reassure them they can pay a deposit now even though they don't want to make a commitment to the full fee.

We are going to ask TravLaw to help us with something along the lines of "book with confidence" wording.


Will students be able to renew visas if they are the UK but travel restrictions mean they are unable to leave?

We have raised this with the Home Office: they were flexible in the case of Chinese students and had automatic extensions.  

As soon as we have any updates we will share them with you regarding visas.

We also raised that applications centres remain closed in China until the end of the month. We heard from UKVI is that this will be reviewed at the end of the month and they will decide what to do. They promised they would be able to meet service standards once they had reopened and we stressed that if there is to be a Chinese market this summer it will be compressed and likely book very late and there would therefore be a run on visas and they should be aware of that. We will keep you updated and push them if we haven't heard anything soon.


Has anyone had any confirmation about Saudi Embassy postponing funded students? 

We'll get in touch with the Embassy to ask them for clarification.


Can you outline the communication between English UK and other national associations? Pressure from all collectively is needed now.

The international associations are part of a group called GAELA: we are in a discussion forum and looking at what actions we can take forward together. We are all in the same situation and collective messaging can be useful.


We've got questions about accommodation suppliers, advice when dealing with hotels and clarifying whether Oxford or Cambridge colleges will be offering accommodation this summer

We don't know, but would encourage you to communicate very clearly with all of your suppliers and your partners. We do have is a letter from English UK to accommodation suppliers asking for flexibility around terms and conditions and laying out the impact that Covid-19 is having on the sector. That is available for you to give to your suppliers and is on our Coronavirus page.


What's happening with Study World?

At the moment StudyWorld is going ahead at the beginning of September. We are monitoring the situation very carefully and we are talking to people who've already booked and also to other workshop organisers to see what they are doing. Our hope is that the situation will move quickly and we will find some clarity. We hope there will be a summer season of some kind and that we are able to run the event as the first stage in our members and the industry getting out there and rebuilding. If we are still in a situation where large gatherings are banned by the government then we will take action


Is the letter to accommodation providers available to non-English UK organisations?

It's currently locked on our website and only available to those with an English UK member login, but if you want to email us we can send you that document.