Friday, November 27, 2009

BC Explain the Party Line

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 ( 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 (, and Tony Jones, the new Manager of English Language Quality Services from 3 September ( 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 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,

Fiona Pape

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.


The TEFL Tradesman said...

PS: I have sent a copy of this blog-posting to the BC's Accreditation Unit, asking for a reply outlining their views.

What are the odds on me getting a response, d'you think?!

Derek Ryder said...

The term 'focus group', when applied to BC efforts to supposedly elicit teachers' opinions about their workplace, is amusing.
One may as well substitute the rather longer term 'Awkward meeting with poorly-paid staff forced to lie and otherwise deceive BC inspectors on behalf of their employer'.
Also, when considering the likely level of truthfulness or openness in such a focus group, it might be shrewd to factor in the notion that those present are probably in competition for teaching hours. Such staff will be disinclined to be critical-to be so leaves one open to the machinations of office politicians who may be close to the boss outside of the workplace,or who simply want to stab others in the back in order to consolidate their own position-why not if this gets you Brownie points and more work.
Put simply, BC focus groups are a cack-handed, unreliable and humiliating means of assessing the views or working circumstances of teachers.

Troy said...

I've said it once here, but I'll say it again...

If you think their accreditation system is bad in the U.K...

Have a look at some of the 'accredited' schools here in Spain. Not only do they make money off the language schools, but they 'accredit' so-called British primary schools too.

The British School in Alzira is a lovely case in point. Just a few years ago they were accredited, but perhaps the inspector didn't notice that they not only lacked a library, but even blackboards in some classrooms!

Not to mention the dirty little trick of hiring workers from overseas, only to fire them without reason and without compensation. The response from the BC? "Please note that the MC can only consider complaints alleging non-compliance with the British education system."

Or for those not versed in BC-speak, Sorry, but staffing issues are not our is.

The TEFL Tradesman said...

Thanks very much to Troy and Derek for making two extremely valid points there. I had never realised that 'Spanish practices' were quite so awful - and common in Spain, too!

I reckon that the BC itself would not fail to realise that gathering evidence from teachers in a forum style activity is not the most effective way of getting valid information, so clearly they are NOT interested in really finding out what the teachers have to say.

If they really were interested in finding out the teachers' opinions, they would look at 'documented evidence', which could be taken in the form of written statements from teachers. But rather, they claim to be fair and impartial by relying on oral input.

Which sort of proves that they don't care about teachers conditions and circumstances - they merely pretend to do so!

Troy said...

The fact that they get away with it smelling like roses completely baffles me.

I can't speak (for lack of experience) about the situation in the U.K, but I would think consulting teachers in schools accredited abroad by the BC abroad crucial.

By giving their "stamp" of approval, applying teachers (gullibly) think that that the place follows some sort of code of conduct. Something that is not the case in the least.

Anonymous said...

Don't listen to the words but look at the actions.
If you really want to support workers rights you don't work in a middle-eastern country where your fellow employees are murdered on a daily basis - unless they pay enough of course.

The TEFL Tradesman said...

Oh dear, I do appear to have been blacklisted by the BC! A message got bounced back to me just today with the following explanation...

( does not like recipient. Remote host said: 553-Sorry, your email address has been
553-blacklisted. Please see the FAQs section on spam at
553- for more 553 information. (#5.7.1)
Giving up on

So, should I celebrate?!

Derek Ryder said...

Ironic really, given the number of ex-services types their old school network loves to employ.

Michael G Turbanbaum said...

I don't know why you lot bother as employees. It is really tiresome.
Why don't you become rich like me - it is a lot more fun.

Nothing Happens Slowly said...

I have evidence that BC are suppressing information about sightings of flying saucers. They also supplied the Thermite used on Sept 11th. Be very careful of these people, even the police are afraid of them and they have huge resources which they use to guide world events to create their New World Order in which lizards will rule over us.
They are NOT connected to Paul Lowe in any way.

The TEFL Tradesman said...

Absolutely right, NHS. Except the last bits. Actually it's TOADS that will begin to rule over us, and you might have noticed the rather toadly appearance of several MPs. Remember, 'four croaks good, two croaks bad', to paraphrase Orwell (rather badly, I'm afraid).

And Paul Lowe? He's the biggest toad of all, but they won't let him in on the party, as his brother, Toad of Toad Hall, has fallen into disgrace recently, and they're trying to clean up their act, those toads. Warts will no longer be accepted in mitigation!

I'm sure there's another joke in there, somewhere, but I'm all toaded out right now...

MR CLARKE said...


The TEFL Tradesman said...

No, that's not really the gag I'm looking for, Mr Clarke. In fact, it's not really a gag at all...

David Blackie said...

My word, have you seen the lowbrow balls this sandy reads? List on the site somewhere - no wonder he is as mad as a cat