Disasters, demographics and directors of studies
14 March 2014

Lessons learned from management disasters, the effect of demographic trends throughout the world and research into why teachers can be resistant to learning were just three of the varied sessions at this year's Management Conference.

The 114 delegates also got the chance to meet our incoming chief executive, Eddie Byers, with networking encouraged at both a drinks reception and an informal dinner, where there was live music by language school supremo Mark Waistell.

Huan Japes, English UK's Deputy Chief Executive who organises the conference, was delighted with the outcome. "There's been a strong academic management voice as well as a strand on communities of practice and strategies for development for academic managers.

"We're pleased to have some sessions focused on different areas -- not just how to do CPD or problems you might encounter, but how to get teachers learning more. We were also pleased to have something new in the form of Dianne Tyers, who delivered a steely core of management lessons in a lighthearted way. And all of this was in a lovely elegant venue in the heart of Bristol. It's going to be quite a challenge to make next year's conference even better."

The 114 delegates also enjoyed the event. Vanna Carter from Manchester Academy of English, a regular, said: "I think it's one of the few conferences about managers' professional development. There's nothing else out there. There's always something to learn, and things you can actually put into practice. I was really interested in the session on managers doing research."

Kate Haberson, by contrast, is a new ADOS at Kings Bournemouth. "I've been to the English UK Teachers' Conference twice but this is my first time here. I was invited and as a new ADOS it seemed a good thing today. It's got an interesting focus and that's useful to me.

"It's like joining a different club. I really enjoyed this morning: I thought Dianne Tyers' talk was really good for new managers."

With five plenary sessions as well as a choice of 15 electives over the two days, the conference programme covered a wide range of interests.

Highlights included David Graddol, whose opening talk took in changing demographics around the world and identified a growing need for English proficiency at C2 and higher for employees in the new "quaternary" service sector, which includes academic research, high-end health care and financial services. There were also nations which were working with the need for more customer facing workers to have English skills, teaching them purely functional skills and using the CEFR to describe what people could do. A2 had moved from beginner level to a destination in some parts of the world, he said.

Nigel Heritage was a man on a mission on the subject of child protection. "You do it because it's the right thing to do. It doesn't matter whether it's a legal requirement or not. That's because you're looking after other people's children." That, he said, was the difference between a tick-box attitude to child protection and creating a culture in your language centre where under-18s are protected."

DBS checks could only show that someone had not been caught up to the point at which the check was made. It was far more important for school policies to be well thought out and put into practice by everyone concerned, with sensible questions asked at interview and a willingness by staff to be vigilant."

Dianne Tyers, now a consultant who has managed language centres and chains for 20 years, outlined the useful lessons she had learned, usually through managing disasters. These included the importance of understanding context, and understanding there are just some things you can't control. This was brought home to her by a situation where a problem with the sales team meant student accommodation had to be found the same day in New York at the time when major events meant hotels were fully booked. Compounding the problem was a hurricane which flooded the city.

George Pickering launched his campaign to get more managers doing research, and for it to be collated in some form of directory to make it possible for others to find and use it.

He wanted research by managers about either their own practice or management in general, and said the benefits would help people do better what they were already doing, help them develop themselves, set an excellent example, aid decision-making, inform and guide institutional and group data collection and analysis.

In the final plenary, Silvana Richardson talked about her research on resistance to learning among teachers, including both evidence from the literature review and what she had observed. While the teachers themselves who reacted in this way did so in response to fears about losing power, authority and expert status, Richardson was also shaken by finding that the trainers' actions made the teachers' resistant behaviour worse. " Reading this I had sometimes to go down and make a cup of tea, it was very painful," she said.

Click here to see an album of pictures from this conference in our image gallery.


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