Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Crackin' Business

Yes, it's time for my annual pilgrimage to worship at the shrine of triple-distilled pure Irish spring water, so you won't be hearing much either from or about me for a good while. Which is probably a very good thing, really.

So, enjoy your well-deserved summer break yous all (if you get one, that is), and I look forward to enjoying your company again at the end of August, when I shall return to 'crack the whip of satire' (to misquote Trollope) over the shady beast that is the tacky UK Tefl Trade.
Enjoy your summer!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Alex Case Does the 'Six Questions' Bit...

And the next one, please! Yes, here's the next victim to submit to Sandy's six questions game. This time it's Alex Case, the well-known Japanese Samurai warrior and author of the appallingly cheesily-named TEFLtastic website. If, by some strange chance, you've not yet discovered the cheddar-flavoured delights of Alex's site, I recommend you do so soon - it's almost as good as this one!


1.What's the worst EFL job you've ever had?

I look back on all my jobs fondly, but there are some bits of several which are funny looking back:

- Adult students who copied all their homework from each other and then complained when they failed the final test until they were passed by the school owner (Turkey)
- Asking if I could use the computer to prepare a lesson and being asked “Why? No one has ever done that before” by the school boss (London, near Piccadilly Circus)
- Being told that the fact that we could guess the answers to a reading comprehension in Dutch despite not understanding a word was the definition of a good reading comprehension task (pre summer school training week, UK)
- Being told I wouldn’t get my full bonus because I didn’t drive, even though they knew that when I signed up (same summer camp)
- Being told to spend less time planning my lessons and more time chatting with the kids between lessons (ditto)
- Showing my best flexibility by saying that I didn’t care which classes I got as long as there was variety and being given just two levels in four days a week in a private primary school and so having to repeat each lesson 6 times (Thailand)
- A student who picked his scabs in class (Japan- nice students, bad skin!)
- Being told in an accusing voice that a sixty five year old student who studied thirty minutes a week (if she arrived on time) and never did her homework had dropped out because she felt like she wasn’t making progress (Japan)

2. Compare and Contrast: your worst colleague and your worst boss

Again, some bits and pieces rather than one person:

Colleagues - one continually mentioning that he went to Cambridge in every conversation, playing his home made techno music on the teachers’ room CD player, installing file sharing software on the school computer so he could illegally download music while other teachers were waiting to print out their lessons, hanging around the summer camp in Turkey telling all the students he got sacked because he was a Muslim; another, a Welsh guy teaching a lesson on Irish English to a group of Elementary level Turkish kids; a teacher in Thailand who tried to move in on my girlfriend by telling her she was the one to cure him of his addiction to prozzies

Boss - one tried to introduce a policy that teachers had to wear a suit once a week (even though most of our students will still never see us in a suit and no other school in Spain had that policy), boasted that in his previous job he spent the entire year’s marketing budget in two weeks, finished some lessons 25 minutes late and was usually unshaven and with bloodshot eyes but would nag the teachers about their own organization and appearance; another, a former Catholic priest and boys’ school headmaster with a penchant for cross dressing shows in the summer school cabarets, giving the first full time contract in 2 years to the least qualified teacher who had the most complaints from students because he had a thing for Welsh girls, and being told to tell more jokes in my classes

3. Your worst lesson - does it haunt you still?

- An observed DELTA lesson on skimming and scanning where the students neither skimmed nor scanned. Don’t know how I passed that one!
- A worksheet using Hole in my Bucket by Spearhead, for which I only had a really bad tape recording. The class revolted and I lost it a bit and said “I did this yesterday with a lower level class and they did fine, so you are just going to do your best and that is that”. As usually seems to be the case, the students seemed to actually appreciate me showing my real feelings in class, but I was horribly embarrassed about snapping at them when actually the task was pants. Actually, lessons I have tried with one group and try to make go exactly the same with another is a consistent theme of bad lessons throughout my career. Same thing happened with another disastrous DELTA observed lesson, this time the “humanistic classic” Empty Chair
- I have a terrible skill for mentioning I don’t like things and then finding that the students have brought me precisely that for an end of course present and have it sitting in their bags. I did this again the other week with chocolate.
- Any number of times when you find out the next day or week that what you told your students was totally wrong. I can still picture the look of polite disbelief on the face of a Japanese engineer as I told them that metres squared and square metres was the same thing.
- Times when your native speaker intuition abandons you, e.g. not being able to hear if something is wrong or not because you have heard it so many times
- As anyone who reads my blog and my O Level English teacher can tell you, my spelling is shocking, and many times that shocking spelling has gone onto the board and then into their notebooks
- Describing vocab with pictures that accidentally look very rude indeed
- Saying “Right, this is your homework and pausing, then realizing or being told “But teacher, there is half an hour left” -usually due to having a teaching body clock that suddenly flashed back to another school where I finished at that time every day
- Breaking my flies in the toilet just before going into the first session I was giving on a 4 week TEFL course. Luckily had a long jumper on
- Any time I had to raise my arms in a kindergarten summer school in a non air conditioned building, especially when wearing blue or grey shirts (white shirts with yellow patterns- the most useful teaching tip they never tell you on your TEFL courses)
- The two 4 year old kids in the class running into each other while searching for hidden flashcards and getting a nose bleed and a black eye, all while their mothers were observing for the first time that year

4. What's the whackiest thing you've ever done with a class?

The thing where you all link hands and have to untangle yourselves, and loads of other similar warmers. The students seemed to quite like them, but there was hardly ever any language use or link to the rest of the lesson. I’d never do those now, but actually I miss being experimental like that, and it did seem to help class dynamics. I also had that trust building thing where you fall back into each others’ arms on my lesson plan many times, but chickened out each and every time.

Another one, which was theoretically a good idea to practice directions, was to design a treasure hunt in the local area in Waterloo. Unfortunately, half of them just went to the pub (which wasn’t on the route!) and didn’t see them until the first lesson the next day.

5. Why did you decide to become an EFL teacher; and what regrets do you have (if any)?

I had done three years of care work, and was thinking of taking the diploma in social work, but thought it might be a good idea to take a break and travel for a bit first. I’d done a one-week intro to TEFL years before when I was on the dole, and suddenly had enough cash due to getting paid to sleep in care homes, so I did one and off I went. No regrets, as social work is all paperwork and so not really my kind of thing at all. I still have no idea of what else I could have done.

6. If you could change just one thing in contemporary EFL, what would it be - and why?

I would make all accredited schools in the UK (e.g., the ones that could issue documents for students to use to get student visas) only employ teachers with a PGCE-equivalent one-year full-time TEFL qualification or people who were in the process of getting such a qualification. The government would then find that they had to provide at least some funding for said training, as they should for an industry that brings so much money into the economy. Those teachers would inevitably go abroad at least half the time, but as many of them would work for British chains like International House and the British Council and hopefully spread a reputation for good teaching from British teachers, I hardly think the government would live to regret that. There was recently a suggestion in one of the UK newspapers that there should be regulations on who could call themselves a college, in a similar way to universities, and we could do something similar with “Approved English School” or suchlike for schools that kept to those qualifications.


So, thanks very much Alex. In fact, there's another victim in the pipeline, but she's being a little coy with me. Come on, you know who you are!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Six Questions for Melanie Butler

Continuing almost every TEFL blogger's new-found tradition of interviewing other colleagues and cronies in the whacky world of EFL, I present, for your utter delight, an interview with the owner, editor-in-chief, and crusading Tefl catwoman of the EL Gazette, Melanie Butler.

Although Melanie customarily shies away from direct publicity, I have managed to locate this fine piccy of her alongside, featuring a younger edition of the woman when she was recruited by intelligence services to introduce the sophisticated yet decadent Western pastime of pole-dancing to an eager pre-revolutionary Iran.


1. How long have you been at the ELG, and what have been its highs and lows over that time?

I was turned down as the first editor of the Gazette in 1979, but freelanced for it more or less continuously until I bought it with my ex-partner in 1987. Apart from two years working as a publisher for Pearson Longman in the early nineties, I've been here ever since.

One low I particularly remember was being slapped with a gagging writ - which means you are forbidden to publish anything unless you remove a particular article - by a major UK institution (which will remain nameless, as I don't want another writ). A gagging order literally stops the presses until you can find a judge to hear the case. We couldn't afford not to publish and had to give in. A few months later, the management of the particular institution took me out for lunch, and when I asked why they had gagged us, they said it was because the allegations in the article were true.

That experience made me very aware of the importance of evidence in British libel law. It also made me realise the importance of a good lawyer. I am hugely indebted to Julian Pike of Farrer and Co, who has been an invaluable (and eternally tolerant) ally over the years. At the Gazette we get about four or five threats of libel writs a year (we wouldn't be doing our job well if we didn't). Our high point in the libel stakes was when a distance training provider, a Mr Ian B Dick of ILC , with a post restante address at an office building called International House, took us to the press complaints commission. His complaint was thrown out, which alowed us to run the headline "Dick's complaints do not stand up, say commission".

In the last few years it has been a major financial struggle to survive, but it hasn't stoppped us doing major investigative pieces (or getting libel threats). I am most proud of recently launching a digital version of the Gazette, which is free for any EFL teacher in the world. Just log on to
http://www.elgazettedigital.com/ .

2. How do you see ELG's role nowadays - what is its 'mission statement', implied or otherwise?

I'm not sure we have a mission statement - it all sounds too corporate. But we do have a motto: "If we publish it, we can prove it. If you can prove it, we will publish it." A lot of teachers do not understand this, and they get upset when they tell us of something that happened, but won't let us have any evidence, refuse to give us their name (we don't have to publish a name, but we do have to know it), and say they would never provide any evidence to a court if things went wrong. We're often sure their stories are true, but we simply cannot afford to run a story without evidence. The average cost of a libel case in the UK is tens of millions of pounds, and the writer, the editor, myself and the company are all liable.

The other main role of the Gazette is to report what is happening around the world in EFL - not just to native speaker teachers, but in state schools, universities and at governmental level. We try to be a neutral provider of accurate information - even if we don't always succeed.

3. What's your background as a Tefler and a journalist?

I started in Tefl as an unqualified summer school teacher in Iran, before the revolution. I earned £13 an hour, which would be equvalent to £60 an hour in today's terms.. From a financial point of view, it has been pretty much down hill ever since! I am too old to have done a Celta (it hadn't been invented), but I did do a Delta in 1977. I taught in Spain and Italy, then came back to the UK and joined the BBC World Service, where I wrote and produced EFL teaching programmes.

I continued as a freelance scriptwriter and EFL teacher until 1987, when my ex partner and I bought the Gazette from the media mogul Robert Maxwell, shortly before he fell off his yacht. Apart from a couple of years at Pearson Longman, where I was in charge of the splendidly named "adult publishing" list (no, I didn't make blue movies), I have been here pretty much ever since.

4. Compare and contrast; your worst EFL boss and colleague.

I have been my own boss pretty much for the last 22 years, and I'm not sure I can remember. I was sent out by the founder of the Callan school in London (when Callan was just another little method school run by another little man with a method) to Madrid, which was a fiasco - but mostly because I was the only teacher. The people who ran the school were perfectly sweet, but had no idea what they were doing. I left after a month or so because there were so few students that - as an hourly paid teacher - I was in danger of starving to death. I've been against hourly paid teaching ever since.

I didn't like the corporate world much. When I worked at the Beeb we were protected from the worst of it by our section boss, the resplendent Chris Farham. However, I did find it a bit of a nightmare at Longman. The people were nice, but the system was ridiculous - there was so much paperwork, I don't know how we ever got anything done. The worst thing of all was when I was put on a Culture Change Committee - as if a committee could ever change a culture. We ended up having a meeting about the meeting that we had had about the culture having too many meetings. Within a year, all but two members of the committee had left the company (including myself).

5. Compare and contrast; your best and worst EFL moments in the classroom.

My worst moment was probably the first time I walked into a class at the Callan school in Madrid, and my first class, a bunch of student translators, asked their first questions: " When do you use the future perfect continuous?" I ran into the loo clutching my copy of Thompson and Martinet and cried! About thirty years later, looking at analysis of the British National Corpus, I found the correct answer to the question: "We almost never use the future perfect continuous. There is only one exampe of it in the Corpus - it is probably the least useful tense in the world. Forget about it."

My reaction, by the way, was not to say that grammar doesn't matter. Of course it bloody matters, and teachers who don't know anything about it are about as useful as driving instructors who don't know about the internal combustion engine. I've been interested in grammar, and grammar research, ever since.

My best moment in the classroom was probably when I was working at the European Business School in London, where I had the class with the lowest level of English. I decided not to bother with grammar and vocabulary, but to concentrate on getting them to write essays and make presentations in a way that fitted in to British Academic culture (an early form of EAP). I used a range of unorthodox methods, from booting out all the French who sat at the back and chewed gum, to telling the Germans to shut up and write the essay the way I told them to write the essay. I gave lectures, I tore up their essays, and I also swore a lot in several languages.

I have never been a fan of the "being your own best teacher and making your students own the learning process" bollocks - just do whatever works best (short of downright cheating) to get the results, that's what I say. If you don't believe me - visit Holland. The teachers would make Mario Rinvolucri die of shame, and the whole population speaks English!

It worked at the European Business School. When the exam results came out, my lot still came bottom in English, but they were top in every other subject! My students, a bunch of linguistically challenged Germans and bolshy French kids, were ecstatic. When, shortly afterwards, I was involved in buying the Gazette, they did all the business calculations for us before the sale, and about three of them came and worked for us for free for a few months.

6. If you could change one thing in UK Tefl, what would it be?

Why UK EFL? Most of the world treats native speaker teacher graduates like cannon fodder - though, I do have to say, some of the London schools seem to take the biscuit. Outside their own countries, non-native speakers fare even worse. And before you sneer, Sandy, [can you see me sneering, Melanie?] I should say that the best teachers I have ever seen in action were Polish.

If I could change one thing about UK EFL, it would be the stupid British Council decision to leave out teachers' terms and conditions from the things they inspect in the accreditation scheme. This is not only because I think it is immoral - more importantly, I think that it is simply fatuous to say that you can guarantee quality when you have teachers at accredited schools teaching 45 hours a week. Worse still are the summer schools, with teachers working 60 hours a week - before preparation and marking - particularly when they are supposed to be looking after a bunch of kids and teenagers. They're too tired to stand up - it's a catastrophe waiting to happen.


Well, thanks a million, Melanie. And I sincerely hope you get over the shame of appearing in this blog soon!

Monday, June 22, 2009

A New Career in a New Town

Well, it's a new country actually, but I couldn't resist the chance to make profitable use of one of my favourite David Bowie titles. And, erm, it's more of a continuation of the tedious soap-opera that is my current career (if it can seriously be called that) than an attempt to embark on a new one. But what the hell, eh!

You see, I've just about had enough of the deceitful circus that passes for education (and therefore, teaching) in this Gulf country, and so I've decided to take a bit of a plunge and throw in the towel (apologies for the yawning cliches there, folks). So, it's goodbye to the beach and the soaring temperatures, and hello again to the caviar and the vodka.

Of course, there are other contributing reasons too, the most important one being that my wife needs to fulfil a two-year residence requirement in the UK before she can get her grubby hands on a British passport. Unfortunately, my attempts to bribe the commissioner at the British Embassy here with plentiful gallons of fermented yak's milk came to nowt, so I was left with no recourse but the legal way.

The new job's not too bad either. It's one of those 60-days-on, 30-days-off types, based somewhere near the Caspian Sea, and the tax-free mullah is quite generous - just a shade under 9,000 quid for the three months. The teaching's six hours per day for six days a week, which, if my memory serves me well, is just about do-able - provided certain 'refreshments' are readily available!

Anyway, I've no wish to divulge the exact location, lest some of my less charitable followers decide to put on some sort of reception committe for me upon arrival, but let me just say that my knowledge of Russian should come in extremely handy! Meanwhile, I'll be jetting back to Skidrow-on-Sea in a few days, and looking forward to reacquainting myself with the sophisticated delights of contemporary British culture in its urban setting.

Or even the suburban variety - it is Skidrow-on-Sea after all!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Another Peek at TWIN

This will be my last piece in the timely trilogy of five articles about the full horrors of working on UK summer schools. It’s actually a rerun of a posting I made a couple of years ago about the terrible Twin. Let it serve as an example – one of the worst - of the genre of less-than-ideal summer Tefl employment. And remember - if you willingly sign up for this sort of punishment, you really only have yourself to blame!


I came across a very caustic and damning warning about Summer Schools on St. Dave's a few weeks back (click here for the posting) from a frustrated Tefl guerilla called Robski. As a brief outline, just take a butcher's hook at these few examples...

I have noticed that Lewisham based TWIN have started advertising again for summer staff. Whatever you do, do NOT work for this organisation. I was employed on recruitment and then to run one of the summer centres. People were hired and then terminated after they had bought flights, made arrangements etc. Some were told they didn't have a job only days before coming into the UK.

Hmm, that sounds like standard Tefl cowboy practice, if my experience of Summer Schools is worth anything. But go on, Robski - tell me something I don't know!!

Other people were fired for complaining. Support from head office was awful and often management would just shout their way through problems. The staff turnover in Lewisham was very high; they really do like to fire people. In the first week local staff walked out because they realised the money was rubbish for what was being asked of them. As each one left the job got worse. Also, a member of the local staff was attacked by some students.

Well, that IS interesting! Usually it's the staff who end up attacking each other, especially after a long night at the Plough and Lettuce and nine pints of Old Speckled Hen. Anything else we should know, Robski?
Many other things went wrong, too. Too many things when you are trying to take care of other people's children. And there was a major gap with CRB checks - the company didn't even think about it.

Now that's very serious! It's actually an offence to employ anybody who has contact with young people without doing a CRB check. A clear case for the police, and especially Inspector McHammered of The Lard (deceased), methinks. Anyway, I got in touch with the author of the piece and asked for more stories from the TWIN House of Horrors. This is the scary stuff that I got back...

Dear Sandy, TWIN was by far the most crooked organisation I've worked for. I think what bothered me the most was that they really did not care either about the staff or the kids. They know too well that any shit tends to fall on centre managers should something serious occur.

The sad thing is that families send the most precious thing they have - their son or daughter - and companies such as TWIN still don't know for sure if they have beds for them all.

I was centre manager for Twin at Malvern Girls College. The college accommodation was okay, though a bit spread out. It was here that TWIN made a deduction from wages of all except senior staff for accommodation – non residential teachers did not pay this charge. I know for a fact that Malvern did not charge TWIN for accommodation provided to staff. The problems I had to deal with were phenomenal.

A further example: At Malvern we had what we called 'leaderless' kids. These were 6 very young individual Russian boys - 9 or 10 years old. Due to overcrowding in all buildings we had to house them in a building dominated by much older French boys – literally nowhere else to put them. Until we could relocate them to a safer house they were actually at some risk.

We had no leader who could speak Russian, and no leader paid to look after them. An Irish colleague of mine took them under his wing but TWIN did not pay him for the extra work he put in to looking after them. One day these kids were found playing on the railway line ... [and] ... One evening one of these kids had to go to hospital and it was pure luck that his mum was French and a local leader was able to speak to him in French. So we put him in my car and I took him to Worcester Infirmary - serious insurance issues here because I'm using my car for work purposes.

The company did not have a system in place for such problems, and no money was allocated to pay for taxis. (At this point we had no petty cash left at all.) Also about petty cash – we ran out. One night I had to cancel the disco and I did not want to pay for it myself from my own money. I had a very nasty phone call from a senior manager to complain at me, even though I had still not received extra petty cash.

A colleague who was supposed to be assistant / deputy to me was about to quit and I needed her to stay. I asked my line manager if I could give her 100 pounds cash to get her to stay. The answer was ‘yes’ and I was promised I would get this money back – but of course I did not get it back. In total, by the end, I was out of pocket by 150 pounds, and I did not get any petrol money for all the driving around that I did. At Cambridge TWIN did have to pay for every room – even for staff – which is why some were housed more cheaply off site. But then there was an issue about how many students there were for each staff member. I do not know the exact ratio, but it was too low.

At Salisbury the centre manager just walked out. At Oxford he disappeared suddenly. I never found out whether he was fired for complaining or he quit too. Before I was in Malvern, I was asked to work in Lewisham for a couple of weeks to 'help out' with recruitment. Whoever was doing it had in fact walked out and it was a mess. I SHOULD HAVE LEFT THEN. I recruited according to the numbers I was told, and more or less managed to staff the centres (Southampton, Oxford, Cambridge, Portsmouth, London). But after student numbers did not meet predictions, I was told to terminate a number of contracts - some of these people had bought plane tickets from Poland and elsewhere. We then had some people who dropped out and I had to recruit more people - MAD, MAD, MAD!!

And finally, when I got to my centre in Malvern, another one dropped out - which I had warned them about, as it always happens - and we were understaffed. Not enough to supervise, teach, or even keep the centre running right. The day before I arrived at Malvern TWIN asked me if I had had a CRB check. Luckily for them I had one from my previous job. If I hadn't had one I would not have been allowed by Malvern to enter the building. Only two other staff members at Malvern had CRBs. Also, since many leaders and teachers were coming in from Poland, Czech Republic etc. TWIN needed to do this straight away after offering contracts – yet they did not. In most cases, TWIN didn’t even take up references.

When I was recruiting in London the positions had to be filled, but you only had a certain amount of time to do it, and no time to check references. Again, I should have left then. When I had a problem or needed to know company policy about something (for example taking a leaderless 9-year-old Russian boy to the hospital) my line manager was usually drunk in the pub - really! (Graham Impey, was his name – the guy just couldn’t cope.)

So, there you have it. And it's not a vile slur from a 'disgruntled' Sandy McManus - it's actually entirely true, and a frighteningly accurate rendition of everything you can expect if YOU work for TWIN this Summer – or probably any other cheapskate outfit. Just think of it – they’ll rip you off financially, pile up the workload, have you working illegally, and then leave you in the shit when you can’t cope. Is that the way you want to spend your Summer?

Strangely enough (well, not really), I see that Twin are still advertising on tefl.com for “Centre Managers, Activity Managers, Teachers, Activity Staff for Summer School” for their sites “Across the UK - Eastbourne, London, Guildford, Salisbury, Ardingly (Hayward's Heath), Cardiff, Portsmouth, and Saffron Walden” - even though their first SS is due to open on the 21st of this month!

The advert states that “CRB checks will be required” – but this not to say they will be done.

Anyway, if you still fancy taking your chances and are feeling desperate for a spell of humiliation, note that they are paying their Residential Teachers from £270 to £330 per week, depending on experience and qualifications. Why not call their ‘Vacations Team’ recruiter, Kate Melhorn, on 020 8297 0041, and tell her that Sandy McManus recommended you?!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Malvern House - Still No Shame? [UPDATED]

Continuing the Crap Jobs! theme from my previous posting, I notice that the odiously self-regarding MalvernShitHouse outfit are advertising yet again for teaching staff. I reckon they have a permanent ad running on tefl.com, which seems to give the lie to their statement that "Malvern House is London's favourite college". In fact, it seems to be about as favoured as a rat sandwich by its teachers (which is probably the only meat they can afford).

Of course, I can't let you know exactly how much they plan to pay their unfortunate Tefler-victims this time round, as the ad makes only the usual bland reference to 'competitive rates of pay'. There is mention, though, of a "Summer bonus also applicable to anyone starting before 29th June", but the ad carries no details of its substance. Perhaps they'll give you some free sun-cream, or a bottle of Tesco's white wine to take home?!

What I can offer you, though, is this little insight into the grotty place from my TeflTrade (RIP) website of a couple of years ago. This fine piece of bungling and inept investigative journalism managed to show the school in a typically shabby and corrupt light (no mean achievement, I can tell you).


Malvern House - the School without Shame! [June 2007]

Malvern House is no stranger to the pages of this blog. It has been responsible for at least two postings, the first one way back in April 2005. Back then, they were paying their unfortunate Teflers just 9.50 an hour - and last August they were advertising for teachers and ... paying the same rates. Well, guess how much they're paying them now?

Yes, that WAS a trick question, wasn't it?! You've probably already guessed that nowadays they pay ... exactly the same! And that's even for teachers with the Dip.!! Just take a close look at their most recent appeal for unwary Tefl victims, taken from tefl.com.
  • "Malvern House is fun, lively language school. We are the largest language school in London and the second largest in the U.K."
  • "We have several positions available for the start of the new term, and one position available immediately. Our starting pay is £9.50 an hour; however we do guarantee hours for our teachers. "
Well, I wonder what's 'exciting' about earning less than ten quid an hour - less than 300 quid a week? Still, it's nice to know that they do guarantee the hours - that's really big of them!! And the fact that there is one position available immediately - well, you know what to think, don't you!

Unfortunately, that bit about being the largest EFL school in London, and the second biggest in the UK, is also true. What she failed to add, however, is that it's probably one of the most unethical and corrupt outfits too, if we judge by its past.

You see, Malvern House is owned and operated by the odious Malhotra family, who were responsible for THE biggest EFL scam in London several years ago. Remember Evendine College? Hundreds and hundreds of students left high and dry? Dozens of teachers left unpaid? These articles might serve as a reminder...




There's also this, from a British Council report into dodgy EFL providers:

The Supply of Goods and Services Act is especially pertinent in light of the closure of Evendine College. Evendine College was part of the Anglo Education Group PLC, and owned by Mr. Suresh Malhotra. On Thursday, 19 June, 2003, Evendine College closed its doors without notice to staff or students. Less than a month later, Mr. Malhotra put the college into voluntary liquidation. Many students had paid for courses that Evendine College failed to provide, and were left without any recourse. Around the same time, an investigative journalist’s report had found that Evendine College was one of the many private ELT institutions willing to provide false visa documentation to persons posing as "students".

Well, if that's not unethical - and criminal - then I don't know what is! In fact, Suresh Malhotra was officially banned from running a company for several years. However - surprise, surprise! - his name does appear on other websites as being linked to the school.

Anyway, let's get back to the Director, as Companies House data states that he has an extremely desirable address in the fashionable posh suburb of Chalfont St. Giles. In fact, I looked up the postcode on houseprices.com, and this is what it told me:

31/07/2002 £725,000 [Detached, Freehold] Hollyoak, Nightingales Lane, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, HP8 4SF

So, the Malhotras bought their domestic pile almost five years ago (and a year before Evendine College crashed) for a tad under three quarters of a million quid. Property prices have risen substantially since then, however, and it would not be unfair to assume that the current value of that little homestead would be closer to the following more recent prices:

1. 12/03/2007 £1,210,000 [Detached, Freehold] Brackenhurst, Nightingales Lane, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, HP8 4SF

2. 30/10/2006 £1,380,000 [Detached, Freehold] Sutton House, Nightingales Lane, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, HP8 4SF 3. 28/06/2005

3. £1,850,000 [Detached, Freehold] Wilmers, Nightingales Lane, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, HP8 4SF

So, the owners of the largest EFL school in London pay amongst the lowest wages - less than 300 quid a week for properly qualified and experienced EFL professionals - whilst they themselves live in luxury in Buckinghamshire. Interesting that, innit?!

First Published: Thursday, 7 June 2007

Anyway, this year MalvernShitHouse appear to be anticipating a large influx of students (or perhaps a large outflux of teachers) in summer, as they claim "We require experienced teachers for positions from 29th June 2009." If you are indeed desperate enough to work for this bunch of shysters, then magic your CV to HR@malvernhouse.com, where it will be given a fearsome inspection by the appropriately-named Antonia Corp, who claims to be in charge of recruiting at MalvernShitHouse.

In fact, Miss Corp (I'm presuming she's the unweddable and unbeddable single type) is also no stranger to this very blog, having sent the tart epistle below to Yours Truly some years ago, when I was foolish enough to give her college a cyperspace mauling for offering low-paid jobs dressed up as 'career opportunities'. As you can see, she has a very high opinion of herself and the school that employs her, whilst she apparently prefers to dismiss her EFL teachers as 'losers' and 'Guardian-readers'!

Dear Sandy,

I am assuming you are a 30-something failed actor/artist/writer or suchlike, of the usual ilk that believes that by slagging off their current profession they will somehow feel more satisfied about going to work every day.

I can’t exactly say I was quaking in my boots to find I was mentioned on your pathetic moaning website for losers and readers of the Guardian that we are offering one of the “crappest jobs in tefl”. Perhaps you would care to visit one of our schools and meet some of the 64-strong teaching team, all of whom readily accepted the STARTING salary of £9.50/hr, and have a strong commitment to their students and each other, in turn providing one of the best training grounds for newer teachers, as well as excellent promotional prospects for gifted and experienced teachers.

As the only (and feel free to correct me if you think I am wrong) school in London with a separate team of teachers dedicated to the professional advancement and development of the teaching population at Malvern House (over 75 hrs per week are dedicated to teacher development and training), I think you would agree that £9.50/hr is an excellent salary considering all the benefits (of which there are too many to mention here – completion bonuses, monthly drinks parties, guaranteed hours, permanent contracts etc etc.).

Feel free to pop in next time you have some spare time (which I’m sure won’t be long!) and I’ll show you around. Or maybe you could just ask one of our 10,000 previous students – there are many still in the UK, mostly in good jobs or higher education – if they thought their teacher seemed unmotivated or uncaring.

Antonia Corp
Malvern House London

So, there you go - a lot of charming people at such a charming school! And, just in case you didn't know it already, 9.50 is an 'excellent rate' of pay, at MalvernShitHouse anyway, and such basic things as guaranteed work and permanent contracts are now apparently to be regarded as 'benefits'! That's the modern face of UK Tefl - and don't it suck, eh!?

UPDATE: One of my comrades deep in the Tefl battlefield has advised me that MalverhShitHouse's listing on the British Councils 'UK Accreditation' website is noticeable for its extremely coy presence. In fact, it states the following...

Malvern House, London
Publishable statement withdrawn.

Strange, eh? I mean, if MalvernShitHouse forked out a load of cash to renew their BC accreditation, you think they'd want the world to know, wouldn't you? In fact, what these terse words typically mean is that the school refused to have the statement published - presumably because it wasn't good enough. Or at all!

In fact, you can check out all your favourite (and also the less admired) EFL schools right here:


Have fun!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Crap Job! Crap Job! Leeds Language College!!

I can remember that, back on the old TeflTrade blog (RIP), I used to do a 'Crap Job of the Month' posting every month or so. Now, for some odd reason I seem to have overlooked this essential weapon in the current TEFL Tradesman's armoury, but I have recently had a stiff and sobering reminder of the need for eternal vigilance and a permanent state of readiness in the war against TEFL shysters and bastards-deserving-of-being-shat-upon.

Because here's what must surely be the Crappiest EFL Job for 2009. Ladies and Gentlemen, and those of Indeterminate and Median status, let me introduce you to ... the Leeds Language College, where treading the treasured TEFL boards will get you the enormously generous sum of just over eight quid an hour!

For those with an eye on their career and an annual salary, that's, erm ... a starving starting salary of £12k a year for 30 hours of classroom capers per week. Don't believe me? Take a butcher's at the following then, from tefl.com, that essential repository of crappy jobs and dubious career prospects.

English Teacher - Leeds Language College Ltd
Location Leeds, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
Deadline Monday 15. June 2009
Experience 1 year
Positions 3

Wow - they've got three positions on the go! I wonder why?! And best not hang about - the deadline will be past in a week, and then your Golden Opportunity will be gone (but probably not forever). Anyway, take a quick look at the details below, which are almost exactly the same as those that attracted the attention of the Tefl Blacklist (RIP) last year...

Qualified CELTA teacher required to teach English to foreign students (age18+) of all levels in a British Council accredited college in the centre of Leeds. Must be a proficient English speaker with degree level education. Average six hours daily. Three to nine hours subject to requirements (it is expected that this will give an average six hours daily over the year). Please send CV'S for the attention of Adam Priestley to LeedsLanguageCollege@yahoo.co.uk.

So, some days you'll only be wanted for three hours of teaching, on others it'll be nine. Well, that ain't too bad, is it? As long as you're awake, you'll probably pass muster for the undoubtedly demanding c*nt called Adam Priestley, who is too tight to even get a proper e-mail address!

Must have CELTA qualifications or equivalent. Degree level educated. Native English speaker.

Guaranteed hours Monday-Friday all year round. Starting salary £12k+ per annum (30 hours per week).

My God - I wonder just how many people with a degree and a CELTA would consider flogging themselves for less than 250 quid a week? Surely a job on the checkout at Waitrose or Morrison's would get you more cash? Or even washing cars in the supermarket car park!

Anyway, you can give the skinflint c*nt called Adam Priestley a ring at the number below and tell him what to do with his arsehole of a job. In fact, I'll do that very thing tomorrow (Monday) and let you know how I get on! Anyway, it's high time we started dealing with these wrist-job rogues in the appropriate manner, so a bombardment of unpleasant phone calls would be a good way to start off the campaign against them! To the barricades (OK, pick up your mobiles, comrades...)!

Company/Organisation: Leeds Language College Ltd
Address: Provident House, Vicar Lane
Leeds, LS2 7NL
Telephone: 0113 242 7534
Contact person: Mr. Adam Priestley, Manager

By the way, I checked out the school's credentials at Companies House, and it turns out that our dashing businessman Adam Charles Priestley resides with his parents at a very nice place called Blue Firs in Southfields Road, Strensall, York, and was born in March 1974. Last year his Leeds Language College made a surplus of more than 22,000 quid, so I reckon he could spare a little more for his teachers, don't you?!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

How to Double Your Money at Summer School!

Sincerely now, would you like to know how to make more money from your summer school than your employer intended to pay you? If so, read the piece below, kindly provided by a colleague of mine who has a legal background, and has put his knowledge to extremely good use after suffering the indignities of a summer school last year. Well done, mate!

You probably already know the bad news - that a lot of UK summer schools pay very, very close to minimum wage per hour. However, the good news is that they don’t know the minimum wage legislation very well – but you, after reading this, surely do! So, Sandy is providing you with a copper-bottomed way to bump up your miserable summer wages this year.

In fact, it's really quite easy to work a summer school, get the money, make a complaint to the minimum wage unit, and get more money. You can even get the school thrown off the British Council accreditation scheme if you are feeling particularly vindictive. Of course, I wouldn't suggest you do anything as naughty as that, but ... Oh fuck, you're right - I DO want you to do just that!

Anyway, let's get down to brass tacks. In short, there are just THREE essential facts that you need to know if you want to make a minimum wage complaint. Follow these steps and you can't go wrong, dear downtrodden Tefler.

Fact 1. What is "working time"?

All employees in the UK (in fact in the EU) are entitled to minimum wage (currently £5.73 an hour in the UK) for every minute of 'working time'. This notion of 'working time' includes every bit of working time - not just that which is actually on your timetable. So, if you have to do a spot of lunch-time cover for Jason, or go round the pubs at night picking out the students (and the teachers), that's all working time, according to the legal definition, which is ... ALL TIME SPENT AT YOUR EMPLOYER'S DISPOSAL.

In fact, most summer schools are pretty clueless as to what constitutes working time, but actually it’s not that hard. It includes...

· Every minute you teach.

· Every minute you spend in meetings

· Every minute you spend training, including induction days.

· Every minute you are obliged to spend with students, eating with the, taking them on trips, putting them to bed, playing French cricket.

· All travelling time undertaken for the employer that includes the bus ride to and from Madame Tussauds and to and from the airport.

· Any minute of the day that you are on call. So that means that, if our contract says you have to put the students first at all times, your working time includes every minute that you are not physically in the staff room, in your bedroom, or off the premises.

· If you are on call at night, then you have to be paid for every single minute you are asleep. It doesn’t matter whether you ever actually have to get up and deal with the kids - if the presumption is you might have to, they have to pay you. If you are contracted for “overnight duties” they definitely have to pay you. If you have to sleep near the students, they probably have to pay up (why else are you sleeping there?). If there isn’t a night rota and the school does have juniors, they probably have to pay you (because the presumption is you are on call). Indeed if you have to be on the premises the night before your day off and the night of your day off, they have to pay you minimum wage for those nights as well. However, they do not have to pay you for sleeping on site at night if there is someone else on call.

In fact, the only time when you are working and they don’t have to pay you is for marking and preparation (so don't do it!). Unless they tell you when you have to do it - "Saturdays is for preparation" – in which case you can claim for it.

Fact 2. Who calculates the hours?

Strangely, it is not the employer's job to calculate every working hour over 48 hours a week, it is the employee's. This might seem like a complete bore, but it is actually good news. Because it means, if you can make a minimum wage complaint, you will have a note of the hours and your employer won’t. Simply write down, to the nearest 15 minutes or so, every moment you are required to be on the premises and can’t hide in your room or the staff room. Also, write down to the nearest quarter of an hour every time you have to be off the premises for you employer on airport runs, for example. And of course, write down all the hours you have to be in your room at night because you are (or could be deemed to be) on call. Occasionally asking if you can leave the premises when you are not on duty can also be helpful – if they say no, then you are on call and that is working time.

In short, be sure to write all your working hours down - every single one of them. This is the way to make yourself some money.

Fact 3. How to calculate if you have a claim for minimum wage.

At the end of your summer school, multiply the total number of working hours you have noted down by £5.73. Now deduct £31.22 for accommodation – that is all they are allowed to charge you (and no - they can’t deduct for food as well). That is what you should have earned BEFORE holiday pay. Now check this against your pay slip. (If the holiday pay is not noted on the pay slip they owe you that as well.)

If you think you are owed any money then just make a complaint to the Minimum Wage Unit. You can do this on-line at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/nmw/nmw_complaint_form.pdf . You will have to provide evidence – pay slips, contract, timetables and, of course, your note of working hours. You do not have to even give your name. If they find in your favour (and remember the employer has to prove that you are wrong about the hours, and they won’t have the records), then they fine the employer and give you the money.

Even better - if you win, you can rub their nose in it still more. You can send the results and your paperwork (contract, note of hours, pay slips) to Accreditation UK, reminding them that the employer is in breach of their undertaking to obey UK employment law, and thus in breach of accreditation. Copy everything in to the EL Gazette and, for good measure, send a copy to the Border Police.

So enjoy your Summer School this year, won't you. 'Cos if the Tories win the election next year, you can very probably kiss this type of legislation goodbye.

UPDATE: My 'mole' has just informed me of the following...

Two legal technicalities.

a) If preparation and marking are mentioned in your contract, you have to do them. However, if they don't tell you how long you have to spend at them, you can do the minimum (half an hour a day, say). If they complain, ask them how long you need to do for each lesson, and those hours become part of your working time.

b) You do have to tell the Minimum Wage Unit your name - otherwise they can't pay you! However, you can tell them not to release the name to the employer.