September 2015 issue

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Part of

Sue Blundell,
Executive Director of English Australia

On the eve of retirement as Executive Director of English Australia after 13 years, Sue Blundell reflects on life-changing industry experiences, her work and proudest achievements.

First steps in teaching
I was an English literature and language graduate and initially I got some job interviews in the advertising field. However, my friend saw an advert for the JET programme in Japan and bet me to apply for it. And they offered me the job!

I was teaching just outside Tokyo and my first experience with the host family was traumatic – they couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak Japanese – but it gave me an understanding of how our students feel when they arrive. It was the best thing I’ve ever done. I can’t imagine how different life would have been if I hadn’t done it. I think everyone should go and experience a different culture.

A different industry
After the JET programme, I couldn’t settle back in the UK and returned to Japan for another three years. I had a job in Spain lined up, but then met this Australian man, fell in love and moved there! I spent a lot of time learning Japanese seriously, but couldn’t get a job using it so ended up teaching again.

It was very unregulated back then. My first job was teaching a Japanese tour group and I thought it was the best job ever – teaching in the morning and going sightseeing in Sydney in the afternoon. There was no salary structure; my boss asked me what I thought I should be paid! I was working at one of the largest schools with five centres in Sydney, but it was part of the boom and bust cycle. We were on TV when we turned up to a padlocked school one day.

My next job in 1991 was an amazing school. I stayed there for 10 years and went from teacher to trainer to education manager to marketing director to general manager. Someone saw potential in me and gave me the opportunity to grow. I was given a platform to step onto the English Australia (EA) board. At that time EA only employed two people, so it was a big decision to create a senior-level position to take the organisation forward. Two candidates were presented to the board and they were both appalling! I said, “I could do a better job than that,” so the others said, “Why don’t you then?”

One thing that I have learned is that it is really important to look out for people and help them develop their skills. I had a really good mentor and we need to pass that on.

Rewarding times
Very few people get the chance to impact on a whole industry, so that has been the most rewarding thing and I am very grateful for that opportunity. As for my proudest moment, I think back to the worst time, because how you can get out of that situation can be the most satisfying thing. It was the unannounced closure of seven GEOS schools simultaneously. We had 2,000 students to place with a small staff and no real resources. We placed them all incredibly quickly when you think about the logistical difficulties. We dropped everything for a month. But I still get agents that remember what English Australia did for them at that time.

Changes in the industry
The fundamental teacher/student relationship and cross-cultural dynamic hasn’t changed and never will. The best thing about the industry is the relationships that develop and the passion of the teachers.
One thing that has changed is the recognition the English language sector now has. It had been seen as a poor cousin with no qualifications, so we had to shout to get attention. The government is now involving us on steering committees, which wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago. Agents play an incredibly valuable role in ensuring students receive good advice and have appropriate expectations. If you have the wrong expectations, you’ll be disappointed. Colleges are driven by business imperatives to get more students, but they have to work with agents that are good counsellors. Schools and agents are partners, so any imbalance in a partnership is unhealthy.

Working together for the greater good
Collaboration is so important. I’ve always believed passionately in associations working together. We have to do more globally to push the cause of the industry and I make sure I always go to the Gaela www.gaela.org meetings. The relationships and conversations we have mean we learn from each other. I think Gaela is one of the best things that has ever happened in the industry. And meeting with Felca www.felca.org means we understand each other better and it gives us a platform to achieve much more.

Within Australia, it didn’t come easily. You need champions and I’ll take a little credit for that. For example, when I make a submission to government, I always send a copy to the other bodies. I was the first to do that, now everyone does it. It is very easy for governments to divide and conquer if the peak bodies don’t agree.

The future
I need a bit of quality time with the man I fell in love with in Japan! I can rediscover the travel bug without thinking about work!

The new Coordinating Council for International Education invited me to be on it based on my experience, which was a nice compliment and I will continue with that as long as it goes on. I have loved every minute of this job and every job that I have had in this industry. It is a passionate industry and we transform the lives of young people.

Contact any advertiser in the this issue now

The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of StudyTravel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.







Alpadia Language Schools  
Amauta Language School  
CERAN Lingua
don Quijote  
EF International Language Centers  
ELS Language Centers  
Eurolingua Institute  
International House World Organisation  
Kaplan International
Kings Education  
LAL Language Centres  
Oscars International  
Pro Linguis  
Quality English  
Sprachcaffe Language Plus 
St Giles International  
TLG - The Language Gallery  
Twin Group  

BASP - Buenos Aires Spanish School  

Ability English  
Cairns Language Centre  
English Australia  
ILSC Australia  
Impact English College  
Monash College  

Instituto Cultural IDIOMA  

Spanish World Institute  

YMCA International Language School  

Academia Tica  

Study Team Cuba  

Carlsbad International School  

ABLS - Accreditation Body for Language Services  
BEST in Bath  
Communicate School  
English Language Centre Brighton  
Experience English Group  
Heart of England Language School  
Inspiring Learning  
International House London  
Islington Centre for English  
Liverpool School of English  
Living Learning English  
Manchester Language School  
Oxford Royale Academy  
Sidmouth International School  
University of Liverpool  

Alliance Française Lyon  
Alpine French School  
Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne  
Ecole de Tersac  
France Langue  
inlingua La Rochelle  
Institut Français Riéra  
International House Nice  

BWS Germanlingua  
F+U Academy of Languages  

Atlantic Language Galway  
Donegal Language School Equestrian & Surf Centre  
Emerald Cultural Institute  
Galway Cultural Institute  
Horner School of English  
International House Dublin  
ISE - International School of English  
MEI Ireland  
University College Cork Language Centre  

Intercultural Institute of Japan  
Kai Japanese Language School  
Sakura House  
Yokohama International Education Academy  

Feltom Malta  
IELS - Institute of English Language Studies  
Magister Academy  

Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology  
English New Zealand  
University of Otago  

International House Belfast  

Paradise English  
Habla Ya Language Center  

International School of the Algarve  

Experience English Group  
Kilgraston Language and Activities School  

Bay Language Institute  
EC Cape Town  
Education South Africa  
Eurocentres Cape Town  
Good Hope Studies  
Inlingua Cape Town   
Interlink School of Languages  
International House Cape Town  
Kurus English  
LAL Cape Town  
Language Training Centre   

CLIC International House Spain  
Escuela de Idiomas Nerja  
Estudio Sampere  
Live Madrid SC School  
Malaga Instituto  

British International School Phuket - BCIS  
California Language Academy  
EF International Language Centers  
Summer Study Programs  
University of California San Diego  


Calgary Board of Education  
Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board  
Eastern Townships School Board  
Edmonton Catholic Schools  
Edmonton Public Schools  
English Montreal School Board  
Golden Hills School Division #75  
Greater Essex County District School Board  
Greater Victoria School District  
Halton Catholic District School Board  
Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced  
ITTTI Vancouver  
Langley School District #35  
Louis Riel School Division  
Ottawa Carlton District School Board  
Oxford Royale Academy  
Pembina Trails School Division  
Powell River School District #47  
Simcoe County District School Board  
St James - Assiniboia School Division  
Thames Valley District School Board  
Waterloo Catholic District SB  

Chaucer College Canterbury  
Chichester College  
Oxford Royale Academy  
Queen Ethelburga s College  

Barrie School, The  
High Schools International - HSI  
Menaul School  


Hult International Business School  
Cambrian College of Applied Arts and Technology  
Centennial College of Applied Arts and Technology  
Georgian College  
North Island College International  
St Clair College  

Bromley College of Further and Higher Education  
University of Liverpool  

University College Cork Language Centre  

University of Otago  

International School of the Algarve  
Summer Study Programs  
University of California San Diego  


Hult International Business School  


English Australia  

British Council  
Campus Living Villages  
Quality English  
Trinity College London  
Twin Group  

Homestay Technologies  

English New Zealand  


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