Regarding that letter from the allegedly angry Tefler, I put the same points to Fiona Pape (looks quite horny from the piccy alongside), of the British Council's Accreditation Unit. From the reply below, it would appear that Ms Pape is rather fond of merely explaining the process again and delivering bland officialese - which makes her a prime candidate for BC management, I s'pose. I have placed my comments at the end of Fiona's piece - which could be a very nice place to be!
The BC accreditation unit manages the Accreditation UK, quality assurance, scheme for ELT providers in the UK and we do this in partnership with the UK ’s ELT professional association, English UK (www.englishuk.com). We are now an approved accrediting body on the BIA list.
For future, I’d be grateful if you could please direct any enquiries relating to accreditation and or the UK ELT sector to Elizabeth McLaren, Assistant Manager of Accreditation Services (Elizabeth.email@example.com), and Tony Jones, the new Manager of English Language Quality Services from 3 September (firstname.lastname@example.org). I am of course also happy to respond to any further emails on this thread.
Further to our earlier exchange (and I attach our earlier exchange of emails for my colleagues info), let me respond to address the issue of inspections which you raised, copied here below:
"If, as you state, you 'therefore expect all providers accredited under the Scheme to be aware of and comply with all existing and new requirements', how do you verify that they are indeed doing so?
I ask because, at a recent BC visit to the school where I work, little if any attention was directed towards eliciting the views and opinions of the teaching staff, which struck us all as a bizarre state of affairs. In short, we were all rather disappointed that, instead of feeling that 'our moment had come', it came and went without our noticing!"
Regarding inspections generally, our inspectors look for evidence during the inspection from several sources. We call it a triangulation of evidence which includes:
1) observation of the provision in action: inspectors observe classes but also admin and student welfare systems,
2) interviews - inspectors interview admin and management staff and organise focus groups with both teachers and students
3) documentation - inspectors look at a very wide range of documents both before and during the inspection.
These are all listed in a separate section of the handbook, split into different stages, and are cross-referenced as well with the criteria so that you can see where inspectors look for evidence.
In this way, inspectors are able to cross-check evidence to corroborate findings or highlight weaknesses and to arrive at an impartial and objective judgement of the provision. This ensures a robust system which will hold up under appeal. The voice of the teacher is very important but clearly cannot be the only source of evidence.
Our inspectors are all very experienced senior ELT professionals and most have been inspectors for many years. They aim to be unobtrusive. Please be assured that they are very good at what they do.
As I’ve said in previous email, all providers are expected to comply with all legal and statutory requirements in the UK . They submit an annual declaration each year to the accreditation unit where they confirm their compliance. During inspections providers must demonstrate that they comply with legal and statutory requirements under the criterion M1. This criterion is explained in much greater detail in our handbook which you are able to download free from the accreditation website www.britishcouncil.org/accreditation. The criterion covers a lot of ground and inspectors spot check for evidence for this criterion.
Please note that the Accreditation UK scheme is a voluntary scheme for UK providers and, while the governance bodies of the scheme can withdraw accreditation, we have no authority to force providers to comply. Where there are serious concerns regarding legal and statutory requirements, the appropriate authorities or government bodies should be contacted. The section on M1 lists many websites for relevant authorities including those which are employment related. They may provide a useful resource for you regarding your questions to the EL Gazette.
I hope this helps answer your questions. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch again in future.
All the best,
Regional English Manager for Near East and North Africa
British Council +212 (0)37 08 36
Well, what can we say about Ms Pape's measured response? Firstly I must say that I find her patronising tone rather offensive - "Please be assured that they are very good at what they do." In other words, please shut up and go away, as you don't know what you're whinging about. And to think that some people think that I'm offensive!? WTF!!
As a teacher I also find her statement that "The voice of the teacher is very important but clearly cannot be the only source of evidence" equally patronising - even misleading. The point made in the original letter was that teachers' views, and the matter of their salaries and working conditions, are entirely ignored - a matter that she also chose to completely ignore!
The other dodgy point is that the BC accreditation scheme is seen to be 'self-policing' when it comes to compliance with the law, as the accredited schools merely need to "submit an annual declaration each year to the accreditation unit where they confirm their compliance [with existing legislation]." That's hardly reassuring, is it? I mean, what if they relied on the teachers merely submitting a declaration that they did indeed possess the qualifications they claimed? Would that be seen as a satisfactory situation by the schools - and BC?
Even worse, I notice that the buck is passed once again when it's a matter of suspected malpractice by an employer - "Where there are serious concerns regarding legal and statutory requirements, the appropriate authorities or government bodies should be contacted". So, it's another case of 'don't bother us, we don't want to know, we're probably too busy'. It really gives the message that BC care very little when it comes to ensuring that legal requirements are adhered to. In other words, as long as they get the accreditation fee, the legal niceties of accreditation can go hang.
More importantly, a colleague of Sandy McManus has rightly pointed out that if the same questions were put to the UK Borders Agency (regarding their approved Tier 4 sponsors' compliance with employment law), their response would be quite different and much more robust.
And that's a point I'll be turning to next.