Capacity, community and more at English UK's member conference
26 May 2022

Members Conference 2022 119 610x234

Capacity, community and more at English UK's member conference

Staffing shortages, post-pandemic recovery and supporting each other were at the heart of our 2022 annual member conference, held in London and online on Friday 20 May.

We can do more together than we can alone

Well over 200 members attended, around half in person but many opting to join online because they were needed to cover staff shortages in their language centres.

"It's a fantastic turnout," English UK chair Mark Rendell told the conference. "Our values say that we are a community and can do more together than we can alone, and this event celebrates that. We are survivors, challenges are not new to us so let's start to end the damage and thrive again."

Latest student statistics report launched

Chief Executive Jodie Gray said: "Last year, English UK members welcomed just 53,616 students, about a tenth of the English language students pre-Covid, with a 36% drop in numbers from 2020 and a 13% drop in student weeks. That was on top of the previous year's unprecedented drop of 71% in student weeks and 84% in student numbers.  

"It's sobering to see the concrete proof of what UK ELT has faced during the past two years, though it is much as we all suspected. The incredible thing is that most of our members – over 85% - have survived and continue to do so despite the challenges."

Ivana Slobodnikova of BONARD, answering questions about the student statistics report, said that the UK had been affected more than in destinations where juniors were a less important part of the market: in Australia, for instance, 96% of students were adults. She added that destinations which opened their borders in 2021 had suffered smaller declines than those who did not.

Green shoots of recovery

Jodie added that there was some positivity to share from our quarterly student statistics scheme "QUIC quarterly data shows student numbers improving through 2021, and in the first quarter of 2022 we saw a 172% increase in student weeks on the same quarter in 2021. Whilst figures are not yet back to pre-pandemic levels, we're moving in the right direction."

Capacity challenge acknowledged

Jodie outlined the ways in which English UK is working to meet its new mission and values, with ambitions to increase engagement, optimise the operating environment, promote sector recovery, turn ELT greener and significantly strengthen sector capacity. "We are a people industry. Our staff and our homestay hosts are on the frontline of delivering the learning experience of which UK ELT is rightly proud. They are our greatest assets. It is therefore critical to our success that we're able to recruit and retain enough appropriately qualified staff and enthusiastic, welcoming homestay hosts to meet the demands of growth and recovery both now and in the future," she said.

"We recognise that as a sector we are facing a capacity challenge that will quickly become a crisis if we do not rise to meet it. But rise to meet it we will. We will do this by lobbying and stakeholder engagement, working with our partners at the British Council and Accreditation UK, assessment bodies and TEFL qualification providers. "We will do this through a communications strategy aiming to increase the visibility of the opportunities in our sector, improve the pipeline and promote fit-for-purpose recruitment channels. And we will do this through member support, offering professional development and training and chances to network and share ideas."

The importance of the issue for ELT was made obvious in the day's roundtable sessions, where numbers for capacity and staffing far outnumbered even interest in visa issues.

Inspiration from PRELIM project and leadership coach Diana Osagie

The conference also included a session on the successful PRELIM project where accredited ELT centres bid to support English Teaching Associations' professional development in different countries, and an inspirational and witty session on courageous and fearless leadership from former secondary head and founder of the academy of women's leadership, Diana Osagie.

Watch the videos

Members' Conference session recordings:

What did members say about the event?

"Sometimes you get caught up in the day-to-day and forget the industry behind us and the work that English UK does... It was good to feel part of something bigger again. There was a lot to be positive about too."

"Diana Osagie - best leadership training I've ever attended."

"It's good to be reminded that we are navigating the tricky way forward together, as a community with strong leadership."

"How well the English UK team work together and come across and the broad range of activities they are undertaking on our behalf. Very well done."

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