|The first event to take place was the Alphe Workshop, organised during the bank holiday weekend in August. The weekend itinerary kicked off with a meeting of representatives from the Global Alliance of Educator and Language Associations (Gaela) and a meeting of members of the Federation of Education and Language Consultant Associations (Felca). The two parties then joined for a cross-industry discussion, and became part of a TV programme about study abroad opportunities being filmed by a Vietnamese film crew in London. The TV crew were accompanying Huong Dao from the Vietnamese agency association, Vieca.
Alphe Extra, a one-day workshop focusing on work experience and internship opportunities, also took place on the Friday preceding the two-day Alphe workshop, and good business was reported by delegates at the event.
Close to 300 delegates arrived in London for the weekend workshop, which drew together a diverse range of agents and educators from around the world. Alphe Organiser, Jane Gilham, reported great feedback from participants, focussing on the high quality agents, the friendliness of the event and the Saturday night entertainment, which this year was at rooftop restaurant Coq d'Argent, overlooking the city.
'[The workshop was] really well organised and very pleasant,' said Agent, Marzia Di Croce from International Language School in Italy. 'There are lots of people but not too many, and it has also been sociable.' Maryam Kisray at St Mary's Hall independent school in the UK said, 'Networking is as important on a social level, and the way [Alphe] is organised is really lovely. The Saturday night dinner was lovely.' Inma Sanchez-Ortega of Choices agency in Spain, who has attended Alphe every year, added, 'The hotel was really nice, everything was well organised, it was excellent.'
Following on from the Alphe Workshop was the International Languages & Education UK Fair, which saw over 800 representatives from the industry converge on Brighton seafront for a three-day event. Pre-fair conference sessions looked at issues of visa issuance for UK schools and plans for agent accreditation from English UK as well as trends in Brazil's outbound market. A gala dinner on the eve of the two-day workshop was followed by two days of fair activity.
'It's been intense,' said Agent, Jody Yurkowsky from Lideris Education Center in Latvia. 'It's really good to see such a collection of professional organisations in one place.' Yurkowsky commented that for Latvia, the study abroad market into Europe has really opened up since European Union membership was achieved this year. 'Business has gone up a lot already,' she said. 'Next year, it's going to explode.'
Lucy Quaggiotto, of Globorama agency in Venezuela said that for well established agencies such as hers, attendance at the Brighton fair was most useful to meet partners, although she added that she was interested in meeting Maltese and South African language schools. Zoltán Nagy of Katedra agency in Hungary echoed this view. 'Here, we can meet at least 80 per cent of our partner schools,' he said.
Graham White from Eastbourne School of English in the UK said he had found it more difficult to make appointments prior to the fair than in previous years, although the quality of agents he had met with seemed better. 'We had two or three strong leads, from Poland, Russia and Korea,' he related.
At Manchester College of Arts & Technology in the UK, Jeff Barker was pleased with his participation. 'I'm hopeful that it will bring us a lot more business and more importantly, good quality students,' he said.
Many of the UK and international schools attending the two workshops used the opportunity of having many of their agents in one place to organise social occasions. Malvern House School of English in London organised a post-Alphe 'Pimms in Piccadilly' event to allow agents to see their new school site in central London. In Brighton, many other schools had been busy organising the social event of the season.
Study Group hosted a rock and roll theme dinner and disco, while Managing Director, Andrew Thick, announced the company's investment in accommodation, its developing infrastructure for academic study and plans for online application. Aspect hosted a Beatles-tribute band for an evening of entertainment for guests, while Eurocentres invited partners to a dinner in the Seattle hotel in Brighton Marina.
British Study Centres took their guests by vintage bus to their school in nearby Hove for an outdoor garden party, while EF and Ialc hosted functions inside the workshop venue, the Hilton Metropole. The OISE group of schools also opted for a dinner for their invitees. Till Gins, Director of OISE, related, 'We had a dinner in the Brighton Pavilion for about 45 with a champagne reception and a meal outside on the terrace. It was a wonderful occasion and a great pity we could not invite all our agents.'
A more unusual post-workshop party was organised by English in Chester and Harrow House International College from the UK, to celebrate the launch of their new English language school, English in Barbados. Richard Day explained, 'Thirty agents enjoyed a rum punch drinks reception followed by a delicious Caribbean buffet. There was a live steel band throughout the evening.'
FielsNZ sheds its skin
The Federation of International English Language Schools of New Zealand (FielsNZ) has changed its name to English New Zealand. A new brand design and website is in the pipeline.
William Neale, Chairperson of the 18-year-old association, said the name change was intended 'to reaffirm [members'] guardianship of the good reputation of English language teaching in New Zealand'. It also brings the association into line with the chosen titles of other national associations, such as English Australia and English UK.
Neale said, 'English New Zealand represents schools which provide a quality and truly New Zealand experience to their students. We hope to represent all English language schools that share our vision, ethics and quality standards.' English New Zealand currently has 25 members, including some that have operated for over 25 years.
Concern in UK as language study in decline
Results from A-level exams in the UK have revealed that language learning is in decline. The number of students taking German A-level dropped by eight per cent on the previous year and French students declined by two per cent.
At the same time, as the new school year begins in which students can now decide to drop language study at the age of 14, there are concerns that the move to step up language learning at a primary level in the UK is not on course, according to a report in the TES. Four out of five local education authorities may not meet government targets to incorporate language learning into the primary school day.