It was a full house this afternoon for Emily Ashwell's session. Emily is head of the new UKTI education team, and had some interesting things to say about the education strategy.
She said: "We see real potential for education sector to grow internationally because there is significant demand and there is high regard for what the UK has to offer." The government saw significant potential for the £18bn sector to grow in the future.
The key elements of the strategy were providing a warm welcome for international students "and getting the message out there that there is no cap on genuine students, and give people information about how to apply to study here.", supporting transnational information, and leading the world in educational technology.
The strategy was looking to build a new relationship with emerging powers, and good education was something the UK was well positioned to deliver.
Finally, the strategy was to build the UK brand.
She said there had been good progress on a number of fronts, and her team was set up to help the education and training sector win business overseas. The primary focus, she said, was on "high value opportunities" – big complex commercial opportunities for significant programes of investment, which might involve governments in those countries or significant numbers of corporates getting together to provide education and training. Over time, she said: "there's scope for UK to generate business with an aggreagate value of more than £100m."
The challenge was to mobilise a co-ordinated response, and to look for ways of working more collaboratively. Aims were to raise the profile of UK education, and secure more business overseas - £1bn by 2015 and £3bn by 2020. "We've already delivered the 2015 aim," she said.
There was a priority group of countries, and also priority themes including ELT and teacher training. ELT was, she said, a significant and growing area of demand often in the contexts of other requirements such as vocational education." The UK has strength in this area and a long track record, she said.
So far the strategy was working closely with Colombia, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia.
Talking about the English Language Working Group, she said it represented the EL sector and gave the ability to tap into the expertise and communicate with the sector.
It was looking at opportunities, creating UK response from people participating and working together to create a UK proposal.
She concluded: "In summary the government has a big commitment to supporting the UK education sector overseas and my team taking a far more strategic approach. We do have a specific focus on English, and in time priority markets may … I hope this is something which will be impactful and in which you will all get involved."
At this point we could all choose elective sessions, and I sat in on a very busy safeguarding discussion with Liz McLaren of Accreditation UK, trainer Nigel Heritage, Sarah Etchells of Young Learners and Claire Rickards.
Liz ran us through the history of safeguarding under-18s for EL providers, looking at past publications and guidance and pinpointing 1999's child safe conference as a turning point for recognising that children travelling abroad to study were not only vulnerable, but possibly a target for people who might apply for jobs for inappropriate access to them.
Now, the current guidelines put care of under-18s under the same weight of management, teaching and learning and resources in the Accreditation UK framework, and could lead to centres' accreditation being placed under review, or in serious cases withdrawn.
Under 18s were safeguarded through good systems, good practice and an ethos which cared about it, she said, before an interesting question and answer session which covered such potentially thorny subjects as 18 year olds on young learner courses and also how to handle trips and activities organised by agents and leaders rather than the centres themselves.
And finally, there was the closing session of the day with the ebullient Gladeana McMahon, whose mission was to tell us how to be more confident at work.
"If you don't have confidence, how are you going to reach your full potential?" she chided cheerfully, taking us through the basics of a confident manner, confident thoughts, confident feelings and confident behaviour. "Welcome people: they will gravitate towards you," she said, running through a useful social list of being confident in public and building confidence in private.
And then it was time for prosecco and 150 celebratory English UK 10th anniversary cupcakes, made by staffer Beth Okona-Mensah to celebrate the association's anniversary in our trademark colours of red, white and blue. A blog can do lots of things, but all I can do is tell you that the cakes were fab and thoroughly enjoyed by delegates, with some left over for tomorrow.
Drinks receptions are a great networking tool at these conferences, with the added bonus of people being able to catch up not only with colleagues but meet new chief executive Eddie Byers and have a few words of thanks with retiring chief executive Tony Millns.
For Michael MacDonald of the Mackenzie School in Edinburgh, it had been a great day. "I've really enjoyed myself. I really enjoyed the session about social media, and Terry Philliips's presentaion, and Gladeana at the end. It was all just brilliant. It's all been so well organised and I've found it really useful."
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