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“The current refund demands are quite unsustainable for the whole industry”

An open letter to education agency partners from a consortium of well known ELT operators:

We all have clearly written cancellation terms, which must be adhered to in these circumstances, say a group of major ELT players. Photo: Pexels

"The disruption caused by the outbreak has had a catastrophic impact on this industry"

Dear Friends,

I hope you are keeping safe and well, and are coping with the very difficult trading conditions due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

We wanted to write this joint letter from many of your leading partner schools, to try to explain our position and help us all work together at a time of crisis.

Unfortunately, the disruption caused by the outbreak has had a catastrophic impact on this industry, and we know that both schools and agencies are facing the same challenges, through no fault of either of us.

The outbreak, and the measures taken by countries around the world to contain it, have caused a critical lack of bookings; additionally, many students who are currently booked with us are unable to study at our schools and as you know, a large number of students have returned home early submitting cancellation and refund claims. Not only has our income been drastically cut but, we still have very large running costs and as a result, we are now experiencing cash flow pressures.

We must ask all overseas partners to make timely payments to schools

In order to mitigate our losses and fight for survival, all our schools have had to make very difficult decisions, such as redundancies, temporary lay-offs and enforced pay cuts for remaining staff. Given the severity of these problems and how they impact upon all of us, we fear that many schools and agencies (including well-known and well- established organizations) will see no option but to close in the coming months. Therefore, we are looking to work with you so that we can ensure that as many of us as possible are able to survive.

As you are probably aware, there has also been a longstanding problem with late (unauthorized) payments from many agencies and unsurprisingly this problem has multiplied during the COVID-19 outbreak. Consequently, we must ask all Overseas Partners to make timely payments to schools, otherwise the whole industry may collapse.

We respectively request that you do your utmost to persuade students to accept either a postponement or the online courses we have devised as very significant concessions to students, before considering any cancellations. The online alternatives come with a significant extra cost to schools, as we still have to pay teachers, rent buildings etc. This is the best alternative we can offer at present.

The schools have invested a lot of time and effort in developing a suitable online alternative at very short notice and cannot provide them for free. We are aware that some students haven’t been keen to accept this alternative or postponements and are determined to cancel courses, but it takes time for students to adjust to this unprecedented situation. In fact, many students have praised us for going online so quickly and we even have students reconsidering the online options rather than sit at home with nothing to do.

We all have clearly written cancellation terms, which must be adhered to in these circumstances. Unless you have agreed special concessions with us, you must understand that our terms and conditions apply and we are sure that we are meeting our legal obligations in this situation.

It is quite unreasonable to expect our schools to suffer the enormous financial burden of full refunds for unused weeks, when reasonable alternatives as very fair concessions have been offered. The current refund demands are quite unsustainable for the whole industry and risk leaving many students with postponements or awaiting refunds from schools who may subsequently close.

We are keen to work with you and help you with the pressures you are facing, however we must also ensure that our own businesses remain viable. Please respect our position.

We would like to sincerely thank you for your time and consideration. It is more important than ever that we come together and work for our mutual benefit. We very much hope to continue working with you for many more years.

With our very best wishes,

The Managing Directors of St Giles International, EC English, ILSC, Kings Education, Stafford House, Atlas Language School, CES, Oxford International, Bell English, Tamwood, LAL, STS, LILA, Sprachcaffe, Emerald Cultural Institute, Wimbledon School of English, Eurocentres, Ardmore Group, Bayswater Education and Lexis English.

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