Financial Times writes major feature on UK ELT
19 February 2021

Financial Times writes major feature on UK ELT

The plight of UK ELT in the pandemic has been outlined in a ground-breaking article in the Financial Times.

The piece, written by freelance journalist Alicia Clegg, quotes English UK members, homestay hosts and high-flying former students to give a rounded picture of an industry already facing difficulties from increased competition and immigration rules removing the ability for EU students to travel on ID cards.

"Now, after a year in which their revenues have fallen by more than 80 per cent, ELT centres face the prospect of another season disrupted by border restrictions and travel bans, while their debts pile up. For many schools, the start of 2021 'feels like Groundhog Day', says Jodie Gray, chief executive of English UK. Classed as offices for the purpose of paying business rates yet in many instances told by councils that, as educational establishments, they do not qualify for business rates relief, ELT centres say they have been denied a lifeline thrown to leisure and hospitality businesses. Neither ordered to close nor told they can remain open, many have also missed out on grants directed at businesses instructed to shut during national and local lockdowns. 'We have fallen through the cracks,' says Gray."

The article says that more than 50 UK ELT centres have closed permanently, and explains English UK's campaign to get business rates relief for the sector, with an extension of the furlough scheme to autumn and an assurance that language schools will be included in support for tourism.

It highlights the anomalies that schools within a single group have been treated differently for business rates relief, with St Giles London Central being refused by its local council in contrast to sister centres in Brighton, Eastbourne and Cambridge. "In a statement for the FT, a government spokesperson said: 'It is for councils to determine whether individual properties are eligible for the relief.'"

International House Bristol director Val Hennessy is among English UK members quoted, explaining that she's tendering for online teaching contracts despite these paying less than face-to-face teaching. Hauke Tallon of The London School Group is quoted as saying: "For the home of the English language to be hammered in this way is unbelievable."

And unusually, it shows what the experience means to ELT students. It follows the journey of Martha Halfeld Furtado de Mendonça Schmidt, a Brazilian labour judge sitting as part of the UN Appeals Tribunal in New York "hamstrung by her stilted English." In 2019 she enrolled at English UK member BEET Language Centre in Bournemouth: she is now president of the tribunal, says she is "talkative" in English – and has left warm winter clothes and a bicycle in Bournemouth awaiting her return.

English UK is grateful to members who helped with the production of this article, speaking to the reporter and providing contacts for former students. If you would be happy to be contacted by journalists in future, please email External Relations Manager Susan Young,, with a mobile phone number and we'll add you to our campaigning database. 

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