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UK: extended furlough “not enough” for ELT

English UK has welcomed the UK government’s decision to extend its furlough scheme to the end of September – but added more has to be done to help support jobs in the country’s ELT sector. 

English UK has said that the furlough extension is not enough to support the UK ELT sector. Photo: Pexels

"In 2020, 10% of UK language schools closed permanently"

The furlough scheme pays 80% of employees’ wages for the hours they cannot work in the pandemic. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said it would help millions through “the challenging months ahead”. 

“We are pleased to see that the government has extended furlough … However on its own this is not enough”

However, English UK’s chief executive, Jodie Gray, argued that language schools should receive similar support to the leisure industry and hospitality businesses – both of which have been given business rates relief and restart grants.

“We are pleased to see that the government has extended furlough until September, which will help to support jobs in UK ELT,” Gray told The PIE News

“However, on its own this is not enough. Although the chancellor extended business rates relief for other struggling leisure and hospitality businesses, and introduced a range of restart grants, he has not yet acted to correct the errors in existing eligibility guidance whereby language schools and other ‘non-retail’ businesses are excluded from this vital support.”

Gray explained that with international travel still halted, classrooms will be “left empty”. 

“This is on top of a catastrophic year in 2020 which saw student numbers fall by 80%, 10% of UK language schools close permanently and nine in every 10 of their employees released, furloughed or working shorter hours,” she said. 

According to Gray many English UK members now face insolvency due to large business rates bills. She said that English UK is now ready to “campaign vigorously for the support we need to survive and call on the government to extend business rates relief and restart grants to our sector”. 

Stakeholders also welcomed the furlough scheme, but questioned whether it would be enough to offer language schools the support they need. 

“Regarding the furlough extension – it is very welcome and for us will help if the restrictions on inbound travel are not lifted in time for us to have a meaningful peak season in the summer,” Carl Roberton, general manager at Stafford House International told The PIE. 

“Who knows if it’s enough to save the sector? I think for the truly seasonal operators with low fixed overheads it really will be the difference in keeping them afloat for future years. 

“For other annual operators it will help, but their other fixed costs are high and what they need is a clear inbound travel policy that will allow for short courses this summer,” he added. 

Next week English UK will be publishing its latest Covid-19 impact report and position paper which will make recommendations on how the government can kickstart the UK ELT sector.

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