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TEFL pay goes backwards in UK

 
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Perilla



Joined: 09 Jul 2010
Posts: 783
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2012 4:12 am    Post subject: TEFL pay goes backwards in UK Reply with quote

I'm currently reading William Boyd's novel "Restless". One of the main characters is a TEFLer working for a private language school in Oxford.

The year is 1976:

"I was caught in the EFL trap, all too familiar a pitfall to many an Oxford postgraduate. I made 7 pounds an hour tax-free and, if I wanted, could teach eight hours a day, fifty-two weeks of the year. Even with the constraints on my time imposed by Jochen (her son) I would still make, this year, more than 8,000 pounds net. The last job I had applied for, and failed to get, as a history lecturer at the University of East Anglia, was offering a salary of approximately half what I earned teaching for Oxford English Plus. I should have been pleased at my solvency: rent paid, newish car, school fees paid, credit card under control, money in the bank ..."

And today? My guess is that a teacher at Oxford English Plus would be making about the same numerical salary (ie. 8K-ish) - which wouldn't be enough to live on the breadline - while a young UEA history lecturer would probably be on about 25-30K a year - not great, but probably comparable to that 1976 salary in real terms. As we all know, the TEFL sector, in the UK at least, has gone backwards bigtime.
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slapntickle



Joined: 07 Sep 2010
Posts: 147

PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2012 12:48 pm    Post subject: Re: TEFL pay goes backwards in UK Reply with quote

Perilla wrote:
As we all know, the TEFL sector, in the UK at least, has gone backwards bigtime.


But it's not just the TEFL sector, it's education generally. I found a great piece by a Dr Mark Tarver, a British tenured professor who simply walked out and quit his job some years ago. I quote the article in full because it touches on everything that is problematic in HE education in both the UK and USA today.

Why I am Not a Professor OR The Decline and Fall of the British University

© Dr Mark Tarver, 2007
Lambda Associates

This year, 2007, marks the marks the eighth year at which I ceased to be a tenured lecturer in the UK, what is called I think, a tenured professor in the USA. I've never worked out whether I was, in American terms, an assistant professor or an associate professor. But it really doesn't matter, because today I am neither. You see I simply walked out and quit the job. And this is my story. If there is a greater significance to it than the personal fortunes of one man, it is because my story is also the story of the decline and fall of the British university and the corruption of the academic ideal . That is why this essay carries two titles - a personal one and a social one. This is because I was privileged to be part of an historical drama. As the Chinese say, I have lived in interesting times.

Universities are extraordinary institutions. They are in fact, the last bastions of mediaevalism left in modern society outside, perhaps, the church. Like churches they attracted a certain type of person who did not share the values of the commercial world. The oldest universities date from the eleventh and twelfth centuries - hundreds of years before the invention of the printing press. In an age where books were scarce, communication was difficult and people who could read and write were almost as rare as the books, it made sense to centralise the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge. If you wanted to learn, you headed towards where the books were and the people who could read them and that meant the great universities like Paris and Oxford. Poor communication, expensive reading materials and illiteracy were the foundation blocks for the universities. If today we have excellent communications, free online information and general literacy, we also have an environment in which the universities are struggling to maintain their position. That, of course, is not an accident.

My personal story is mixed in with the expansion of the university system that occurred in post-war Britain. Born 12 years after WWII, I was about six years old when the British government undertook one the greatest and most far-reaching experiments in expanding higher-education, making it free for thousands and thousands of fairly ordinary people to go to university. This generated in turn, thousands of teaching posts. The next decade encompassed the golden years of the university; a fact I was too young to appreciate as a lecturer and oblivious to as a student. But it did.

My unique luck was to be old enough to know the system as it existed while I was a student and to experience its decline and fall while I was a lecturer. Of course the Internet might have posed a challenge to the monopoly of the universities, but really the whole thing began before the Internet got started. It began at the top from the government in a drive towards egalitarianism reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution. Like the Cultural Revolution it ended by inflicting misery and degrading everybody involved.

Just as the Cultural Revolution, the ostensible aims started out by sounding noble. Let us widen access to university and increase student choice, argued education ministers, and increase the accountability of the lecturers by introducing some form of assessment of teaching and research. The last went down very well with the general population because lecturers had never been too well regarded by the masses. All those long vacations and idling with books at taxpayers expense sat ill with many people who felt that lecturers should be 'exposed to the real world'. I was often told that as a student, and, as far as I could work out, the 'real world' was whatever they could see from the eighth floor of the office they worked in. The real reason, I suspected, was that they didn't enjoy their jobs too well and rather than campaign for change or seek alternative employment, they rejoiced inwardly at the thought of another bunch of people being forced to work under the same miserable conditions under which they laboured. The flip side of egalitarianism is envy and there's plenty of that to go round.

But the goal of widening access to education is a noble one and very much in line with the motivations of the post-war British governments. One way of implementing it would have been to investigate why so few students went to university, and, having constructed a careful social analysis, to have increased the percentage of entrants by improving the educational qualities of the average school leaver. Of course that's the hard and genuine route and it takes a generation. An easier way is to water down the educational system to a lower standard and then peg the university income to the number of students accepted while reducing the funding per head. In that way universities are given the happy choice of losing money and enforcing redundancies or watering down their requirements. No prizes for guessing which route the government took and how the universities responded.

It was in 1993 that I experienced these changes as a newly-tenured lecturer. We were summoned to be told that the School of Computer Studies at Leeds was henceforth to adopt a buffet-style form of degree whereby students picked and mixed their degree studies rather than the table d'hote system we had used till then. This new system was called 'modularisation' and it represented the drive towards student choice desired by government.

An immediate casualty were some hard-core traditional CS modules like complexity and compiler design. Why, argued students, elect to study some damned hard subject like compiler design, when you could study something cool like web design and get better marks? So these old hard core subjects began to drop off. Even worse, the School (following the logic of the market), having seen that these hard core subjects were not attracting a following, simply dropped them from the curriculum. So future students who were bright enough to study these areas would never get the chance to do so.

After a few years of this system, the results percolated through to my office. I could see the results in the lecture hall, but the procession of students who walked into my office and said "Dr Tarver, I need to do a final year project but I can't do any programming"... well, they are more than I can remember or even want to remember. And the thing was that the School was not in a position to fail these students because, crudely, we needed the money and if we didn't take it there were others who would. Hence failing students was frowned upon. By pre-1990 standards about 20% of the students should have been failed.

However there are lots of ways round this little problem. One of them is doctoring the marks. Except its not called 'doctoring' its called 'scaling' and its done by computer. You scale the marks until you get the nice binomial distribution of fails and firsts. You can turn a fail into a II(ii) with scaling. Probably you want to be generous because otherwise students might not elect to study your course next year and then your course will be shut down and you'll be teaching Word for Windows. Scaling was universal and nobody except the external auditors (who were lecturers who did the same thing themselves) got to see anything but the scaled marks.

Graduating computer-illiterate students who had to do a project in computer science was more of a headache. The solution was to give them some anodyne title that they could woffle or crib off other sources. It was best not to look too closely at these Frankensteinian efforts because otherwise you would see stitches where they lifted it off some text which you were never likely to find short of wiring them to the mains to get the truth. It was of course, a lie, but the cost of exposing that lie was likely to have ramifications beyond the individual case. Very few lecturers would want to stir such a hornets' nest or have the necessary adamantine quality to inflict shame upon a student whose principal failure was to be allowed to study for a degree for which he had little ability.

After seven years of the new regime, I had the opportunity to compare the class of 1999 with the class of 1992. In 1992 I set an course in Artificial Intelligence requiring students to solve six exercises, including building a Prolog interpreter. In 1999, six exercises had shrunk to one; which was a 12 line Prolog program for which eight weeks were allotted for students to write it. A special class was laid on for students to learn this and many attended, including students who had attended a course incorporating logic programming the previous term. It was a battle to get the students to do this, not least because two senior lecturers criticised the exercise as presenting too much of a challenge to the students. My Brazilian Ph.D. student who superintended some of these students, told me that the level of attainment of some of our British final year students was lower than that of the first year Brazilian students.

Now parallel with all this was an enormous paper trail of teaching audits called Teaching Quality Assessment. These audits were designed to fulfil the accountability of the lecturers by providing a visible proof that they were doing their job in the areas of teaching and (in another review) research. In view of the scenario described, you might well wonder how it is possible for such a calamitous decline in standards to go unremarked. The short answer is that, the external auditors, being lecturers, knew full well the pressures that we were facing because they were facing the same pressures. They rarely looked beyond the paperwork and the trick was to give them plenty of it. The important thing was that the paperwork had to be filled out properly and the ostensible measures had to be met. Students of the old Stalinist Russian system will know the techniques. Figures record yet a another triumphant over-fulfilment of the five-year plan while the peasants drop dead of starvation in the fields.

Teaching was not the only criterion of assessment. Research was another and, from the point of view of getting promotion, more important. Teaching being increasingly dreadful, research was both an escape ladder away from the coal face and a means of securing a raise. The mandarins in charge of education decreed that research was to be assessed, and that meant counting things. Quite what things and how wasn't too clear, but the general answer was that the more you wrote, the better you were. So lecturers began scribbling with the frenetic intensity of battery hens on overtime, producing paper after paper, challenging increasingly harassed librarians to find the space for them. New journals and conferences blossomed and conference hopping became a means to self-promotion. Little matter if your effort was read only by you and your mates. It was there and it counted.

Today this ideology is totally dominant all over the world, including North America. You can routinely find lecturers with more than a hundred published papers and you marvel at these paradigms of human creativity. These are people, you think, who are fit to challenge Mozart who wrote a hundred pieces or more of music. And then you get puzzled that, in this modern world, there should be so many Mozarts - almost one for every department.

The more prosaic truth emerges when you scan the titles of these epics. First, the author rarely appears alone, sharing space with two or three others. Often the collaborators are Ph.D. students who are routinely doing most of the spade work on some low grant in the hope of climbing the greasy pole. Dividing the number of titles by the author's actual contribution probably reduces those hundred papers to twenty-five. Then looking at the titles themselves, you'll see that many of the titles bear a striking resemblance to each other. "Adaptive Mesh Analysis" reads one and "An Adaptive Algorithm for Mesh Analysis" reads another. Dividing the total remaining by the average number of repetitions halves the list again. Mozart disappears before your very eyes.

But the last criterion is often the hardest. Is the paper important? Is it something people will look back on and say 'That was a landmark'. Applying this last test requires historical hindsight - not an easy thing. But when it is applied, very often the list of one hundred papers disappears altogether. Placed under the heat of forensic investigation the list finally evaporates and what you are left with is the empty set.

And this, really, is not a great surprise, because landmark papers in any discipline are few and far between. Mozarts are rare and to be valued, but the counterfeit academic Mozarts are common and a contributory cause to global warming and deforestation. The whole enterprise of counting publications as a means to evaluating research excellence is pernicious and completely absurd. If a 12 year-old were to write 'I fink that Enid Blyton iz bettern than that Emily Bronte bint cos she has written loads more books' then one could reasonably excuse the spelling as reflective of the stupidity of the mind that produced the content. What we now have in academia is a situation where intelligent men and women prostitute themselves to an ideal which no intelligent person could believe. In short they are living a lie.

It was living a lie that finally put an end to my being a professor. One day in 1999 I got up and faced the mirror and acknowledged I could not do the job any more. I quit; and from the day I quit, though things were often tough, I never experienced the sense of waste and futility that accompanied working in a British university. By stroke of fate, I am living only a few hundred yards from the institution at which I worked. Sometimes when walking past I see the people I worked with and they look old. Living a lie does that to you.

What does the future hold? More of the same I'm afraid, because there is little sign that government has recognised the damage that it has done to universities. Both students and lecturers have suffered under this new egalitarianism. The lecturers are confronted with a profession that is pressured, bureaucratic, and, at the junior end, highly insecure with low pay that improves only slowly with the years. Added to that there is the mountain of debt accumulated on the road to becoming a lecturer and the hard work needed to get there. So putting this all together the whole profession looks deeply unattractive to anybody with a grain of sense. Since English people are, on the whole, well endowed with sense, the consequence is that the youngest and smartest of our young people are moving away from being lecturers. The fact that a staff crisis has not already in full swing is due to the fact that universities have taken on a stream of foreign immigrant academics to fill in the gaps. Though some of these people are quite able, the language skills of an immigrant are on the whole worse than those of a native speaker. So the effects on the quality of teaching can only be bad.

Which brings us to the students - the supposed beneficiaries of this new egalitarianism. For them, the new system has brought debt and degree inflation, since the new degrees are undoubtedly not equivalent to the pre-1990 degrees as measures of ability and learning. They pay more for less quality than their mothers and fathers received and they have little contact with the lecturers because the lecturers are too busy filling out forms and chasing money. This is the Cultural Revolution of the new century and it has left the same desolation behind it.


http://www.lambdassociates.org/blog/decline.htm

Thanks for that Mark. You're a poet and there is no place for a creative force like yourself in contemporary HE.
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Perilla



Joined: 09 Jul 2010
Posts: 783
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2012 3:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes very true. My dad retired as a geography lecturer about the same time and he said much the same. I always remember his comment that he realised things were going downhill when he no longer knew the names of all of his students.
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bezler



Joined: 05 Feb 2012
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2012 11:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent article. I recommend having a look at this. Not sure what I think about it personally but interesting nevertheless - http://www.cnbc.com/id/44671989/The_Education_of_Millionaires_Lessons_From_College_Dropouts_New_Book
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slapntickle



Joined: 07 Sep 2010
Posts: 147

PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2012 5:57 pm    Post subject: Re: TEFL pay goes backwards in UK Reply with quote

Quote:
It was in 1993 that I experienced these changes as a newly-tenured lecturer. We were summoned to be told that the School of Computer Studies at Leeds was henceforth to adopt a buffet-style form of degree whereby students picked and mixed their degree studies rather than the table d'hote system we had used till then. This new system was called 'modularisation' and it represented the drive towards student choice desired by government.

An immediate casualty were some hard-core traditional CS modules like complexity and compiler design. Why, argued students, elect to study some damned hard subject like compiler design, when you could study something cool like web design and get better marks? So these old hard core subjects began to drop off. Even worse, the School (following the logic of the market), having seen that these hard core subjects were not attracting a following, simply dropped them from the curriculum. So future students who were bright enough to study these areas would never get the chance to do so.

After a few years of this system, the results percolated through to my office. I could see the results in the lecture hall, but the procession of students who walked into my office and said "Dr Tarver, I need to do a final year project but I can't do any programming"... well, they are more than I can remember or even want to remember. And the thing was that the School was not in a position to fail these students because, crudely, we needed the money and if we didn't take it there were others who would. Hence failing students was frowned upon. By pre-1990 standards about 20% of the students should have been failed.


The chickens are now coming home to roost. At the UCU website today there was a story about entitled Mid-table' UK must invest for success'. The key word here is mid-table. Here's the gist of the article:

Fewer people in Britain are well-educated than in countries such as Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Poland. UCU said today that the government must reverse plans to cut places at universities and colleges if the UK is to avoid slipping behind the rest of Europe.

Looks like our educational performance will soon echo the performance of our national soccer team. It's only a matter of time before Laos beat us in the World Cup and we're relegated into oblivion . . .

http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=5959
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Perilla



Joined: 09 Jul 2010
Posts: 783
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If anything I suspect the decline in university standards began even earlier than suggested in the article, at least in terms of English usage. I graduated in '83. In '92 I did a f/t masters degree at another uni. I was the oldest on the course - the other students had graduated in the years '90 to '92. I was surprised at how bad their written English was compared to mine (even though some of them had come from supposedly better unis), and the course director actually noted this discrepancy in front of class after the first course assignment.

I have often wondered what the reasons for this might be. Student numbers had already started to rise following Thatcher's reforms but whether this could already have had a negative impact I couldn't say. Another change during those intervening years was the much wider use of computers for course work. In 1983 the only students using computers at my uni were those studying computer science; by 1992 they were commonplace for all students.

Still, I'm not sure any of this has anything to do with the shocking drop in TEFL income in the UK in real terms over the last 30 odd years, as revealed in the OP. I mean, it really is stunning. How to explain it?
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Teacher in Rome



Joined: 09 Jul 2003
Posts: 1213

PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 8:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow. And that's an inarticulate response from someone who graduated in 1987.

That article was frightening. I wonder how many other lecturers share his experience - and whether the problems he describes are endemic across all subjects.
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slapntickle



Joined: 07 Sep 2010
Posts: 147

PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 1:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perilla wrote:
Still, I'm not sure any of this has anything to do with the shocking drop in TEFL income in the UK in real terms over the last 30 odd years, as revealed in the OP. I mean, it really is stunning. How to explain it?


It has everything to do with the drop in TEFL income. The problem right across the board is simply market saturation of TEFL teachers. It's a simple case of supply and demand. The fewer qualified teachers around, as used to be the case, the better the salaries. Contrariwise, the more TEFL teachers around, the less value their skills have in the market place. From an employers point of view, why hire an expensive teacher with a Masters or DELTA when you can opt for a cheaper CELTA alternative? And the students won't notice the difference either because their English skills aren't good enough to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Many teachers here at this forum are suggesting teachers leave the profession and find something more lucrative. Why are so many proffering this advice these days? The answer of course is that good teachers demand both higher salaries and higher standards in the classroom. People like Dr Mark Tarver are hard-working, creative people who want to take their students the extra mile. It is teachers like Mark who get results. Back in the good old days, teachers like this were rewarded with a handsome salary because they had more value. Not any more. The corporations and private for-companies have taken over the industry and all they care about is making a fast buck. Why, asks your typical Chief Operations Officer(COO,) should we pay more for a great teacher who knows his/her stuff when there are thousands of cheaper alternatives available? The upshot of all this is that standards and salaries drop across the board and all that you're left with is at best a below average performance. As the UCU article notes: England is "mid-table" which is really a synonym for mediocrity. Good teachers cannot survive in such an environment . . .
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Perilla



Joined: 09 Jul 2010
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2012 7:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

slapntickle wrote:
Perilla wrote:
Still, I'm not sure any of this has anything to do with the shocking drop in TEFL income in the UK in real terms over the last 30 odd years, as revealed in the OP. I mean, it really is stunning. How to explain it?


It has everything to do with the drop in TEFL income.


Well, not quite. Carver is essentially talking about the watering down of university education and the accompanying drop in standards. I don't see a direct link between that and the drop in TEFL pay.

I'm not convinced that TEFL standards have dropped to the same extent - in fact it could be argued that EFL teaching techniques have improved since the 70s. But I do agree there has been an explosion in the number of EFL teachers and schools, and the competition this causes has driven prices down.

Returning to the OP, according to the This is Money inflation calculator, 7 pounds in 1976 is the equivalent of 42 pounds in today's money. Even assuming that Oxford TEFL schools are a cut above average, that means today's going rate for TEFL pay in the private sector should be between 30 and 40 pounds per hour.
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Mikalina



Joined: 03 May 2011
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2012 2:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I trained as a teacher of English in secondary schools (High Schools). I left when it became all about ticking boxes and not teaching. There was no need for A level students to read a book - just a few short passages and copy an already existing essay, with a few changes.

I looked at my new Year Nine class and realised that there was no way they would be able to jump through the necessary hoops in the two years I had to achieve this. I could teach them to read and write and analyse letters, poetry, plays, easily - I couldn't get threm through the GCSE prescriptive curriculum with its tick boxes. I wasn't about to re-inforce their feelings of uselessness, so I left.

As for the level of pay for TEFlers, I received this email from a company I had applied to for work:

Dear all,

Around Summer time 2011 we sent a request for response to all teachers who were willing to work for special rates offered to clients who required cheaper rates in order to book with us. We came up with a cheaper rate option which ‘forced’ the client to commit to a pre-agreed calendar of lessons which they could not change, postpone or get any refund for. This was a way to guarantee the teacher who got these courses, would rest assured they would work on the dates agreed and that the full course would get paid for with no further disruption to the their working schedule. We have been offering these rates as ‘non cancel non refund’ to everyone who did not want to book the standard rate and the acceptance has been quite good allowing us to retain business we would have lost otherwise. The response level from teachers of other languages was excellent, but unfortunately there has been no response for availability to teach these courses from the English teachers.

I am afraid we cannot continue to offer these special rates for English unless we have response from English teachers who are willing to take these special rate courses in exchange of the ‘non cancel non refund’ benefit for them. We will have no option but to stop offering any special rates to prospect English language clients unless we have teachers who are willing to support this special action. It is sad to see that this is only the case for English language training and that we are able to accommodate these prospect clients’ needs with every other language option.

I hope to hear from some of you so we don’t have to discontinue this benefit which allows us to retain some business which would be lost otherwise.

Ernesto Forner

Head of Corporate Language Training & Private Tuition


I am so proud of you English teachers who didn't reply to this.....
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slapntickle



Joined: 07 Sep 2010
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2012 7:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perilla wrote:
Returning to the OP, according to the This is Money inflation calculator, 7 pounds in 1976 is the equivalent of 42 pounds in today's money. Even assuming that Oxford TEFL schools are a cut above average, that means today's going rate for TEFL pay in the private sector should be between 30 and 40 pounds per hour.


This is what schools should pay, but none of them do. Even our top universities are too greedy to pay teachers a fair hourly rate. The reasons for these laughable rates are as follows:

1. Greedy corporate bosses who pay the lowest rate that the market will tolerate in order to increase profits.
2. A general glut of qualified teflers who are hungry for work.
3. A mass of well-qualified teflers returning to the UK because they've lost jobs overseas or are just fed up with the ex-pat lifestyle.
4. Competition from foreign, mostly European, teflers for scarce jobs.
5. The failure of some universities that advertise handsome hourly rates, especially over the summer months, to inform potential teachers that they'll be on site for 40+ hours a week. Add to this additional marking of crappy projects that take hours to grade and you could easily be looking at 50 or 60+ hours a week. With all those additional hours, your hourly rate starts to look ridiculous.
6. The official policy practiced by for-profit companies like INTO and Kaplan of employing poorly qualified teachers at rock-bottom prices.

Can anyone else add to the list?

If more teachers refused to work for such lousy rates, salaries might increase.
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Dedicated



Joined: 18 May 2007
Posts: 727
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2012 10:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mikalina wrote :
Quote:
Ernesto Forner, Head of Corporate Language Training and Private Tuition.....



Thanks for flagging up this organisation - CACTUS Tailor-Made Language Training. This is a US based company who now seem to have numerous centres in the UK too.

Definitely one to be avoided.
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slapntickle



Joined: 07 Sep 2010
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2012 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mikalina wrote:
The response level from teachers of other languages was excellent, but unfortunately there has been no response for availability to teach these courses from the English teachers.


Not really surprising that "the response level from teachers of other languages was excellent". It is these people who are also undercutting the wages of British teflers in this country. How often have you been interviewed by a DOS who is Polish, or given your timetable by a Polish manager, or worked with other teachers who were from Poland? These people will work for peanuts and they never complain, making them angels in the eyes of corporate cowboys like Mr Ernesto Forner.
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Captain Coddo



Joined: 04 Feb 2012
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2012 11:00 pm    Post subject: Polish peanut workers Reply with quote

Absolutely right. I went for two interviews in 2010/2011 where the DoS was a Pole, in one case with questionable English - she asked me 'How much was your journey?', when she meant to say 'How long ... '!

Yes, they are coming here and taking our jobs, so the best thing to do is just shun them when you have to work alongside them, especially when their English is poor. I mean, what do the students pay for when they book a course in England? Polish teachers who have learnt the language from a book? Or native speakers who know the culture inside-out?

Actually, this is just the sort of story that the Daily Mail would love - Poles posing as bona fide English people and stealing jobs from genuine English teachers! If anybody would like to PM me the deatils, I'll collate the lot and get the schools exposed.
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