Sunday, November 8, 2009

The British Council Inspectorate - Exposed!!

Fancy getting yourself a nice cushy job as a British Council Inspector? Well, if so, read on. You'll find the selection process probably isn't as tough as you might have thought - in fact you may even be over-qualified! This little document here - the BC Inspector Job Description - should tell you all you need to know about accepting the BC shilling.

For example, to join the noble ranks of the BC Inspectorate, you need little more than a degree (or a similar qualification) and at least a diploma in ELT/TESOL. Which is hardly asking the Earth, is it? Many of the teachers that they'll be ignoring during the inspection will probably be better-qualified than them, so it's probably not wise to publicise this too widely, eh?

But even then, if you only have that well-pawed CELTA from IH in 1979, you still might be able to make the grade, as “If an applicant meets the selection criteria in other respects, they may submit a rationale for the consideration of their application in the absence of the stated formal qualifications.” In other words, I guess they're rather 'flexible' here, i.e., willing to take on any Tom, Dick or Harriet, as long as they have the nerve to steadfastly ignore EFL's most valuable resource - its teachers

In fact, dear EFL teacher, if you read the entire Terms and Conditions of Service - Accreditation UK Inspector document, you'll probably be a little surprised to learn that the words 'teacher' and teaching' are mentioned ONLY ONCE each. In the first case, it mentions that you may apply if you have experience of “teacher/trainer training”, and in the second it states that you should have “At least 10 years ELT experience including teaching”.

However, one of the qualities on the 'desirable' list could be key, I feel – 'the ability to deliver difficult messages effectively and professionally' Yes, that could be very useful when it comes to telling teachers that their terms and conditions are universally ignored by the BC, as they are not considered worthy of consideration. Let me write that again - EFL Teachers' salaries and terms and conditions of employment at the schools the Inspectors visit warrant no mention at all. Did you get that?

Anyway, talking of remuneration, just how well paid ARE the BC's Inspectors? By all appearances they are hardly underpaid, unlike the unfortunate little Teflers whose schools they will be evaluating. For example, the standard day rate for an Inspector comes in at £230.00 per day, and if, God forbid, the overburdened inspector finds himself working late, he can claim another £26.80 for a late dinner. Those lunchtime sandwiches can be expensive, too, at £7.25 each – smoked salmon, I suppose?

Travel and accommodation costs are also reimbursed, with a London hotel notching up £90.00 in claimables, and mileage is paid at 40 pence per mile. No fees were mentioned for a night-time companion, although you might try to find a Chinese take-away at the local pole-dancing establishment and claim her for your late dinner.

It actually gets better, though. Should our overworked BC inspector have to make a presentation of his findings, he can claim another £160.00 for his efforts, whereas the onerous task of actually writing up the report releases a further £230.00 into the poor soul's bank account. Tough, eh? That's more than a week's wages for most EFL teachers.

But the gravy train doesn't reach the terminus there - oh no! There are also such cash-generating items as Training Days, which earn our impoverished Inspector another £100.00 for the annual Inspector Conference, and the annual Autumn Training Day Event, which collars him a further £50.00 per day. Contrast all that with the training days for IELTS examiners – teachers who actually earn their money – which are always UNPAID and usually COMPULSORY!

Of course, we EFL teachers would not begrudge the BC inspectors the occasional bringing together of snout and trough, would we - if they were actually looking out for our welfare. Yet the sad truth is that the British Council (and even more so English UK) couldn't give a toss for the teachers, which is why they pay no attention at all to their salary, terms, and conditions.

I'm sure I'm not the only EFL teacher who finds that disgustingly arrogant, immoral, and conceited. It's really about time this changed, and the push for a new approach needs to begin now. I'm not asking for a revolution, for a wall to collapse, but I am looking for a spot of reform - i.e., recognition to be made of the need for EFL Teachers' salaries and their terms and conditions of employment to be brought into the scheme and given due consideration.

I'll be bringing you more news of this 'movement' at a later date. Meanwhile, I'll be contacting BC and English UK to ask them how they feel about all this. I look forward to receiving their replies - as I'm sure you do, too! I'm sure they'll be completely open about their position here - as revealed by the picture alongside, which exposes one of the cunning disguises that BC Inspectors resort to in order to avoid the accusatory gaze of the EFL teachers they so willingly ignore! Shame on them all!!

BTW, more info about the BC's Accreditation Scheme and the criteria for its Inspectors can be found via the links below.


The TEFL Tradesman said...

Regarding the IELTS training days, I have been reliably informed that under EU law all training mandated by the employer has to be paid at minimum wage for every hour you are there. The only training they don't have to pay for us stuff that leads to a recognised professional qualification, such as a Diploma.

In fact, since UK minimum wage is currently £5.80 an hour, for a 7 hour training day (they don't have to pay you for lunch) I calculate they'd need to pay you £40.60.

Anonymous said...

Like you say, what did you expect? BC accreditation doesn't mention anything about pay or conditions, though I suppose you can infer that if a school doesn't care enough about students to get accredited, what does that say about how they treat the staff?
Maybe a more direct question, like "Why do you accredit schools that treat their teachers like dirt?" or some other wording they can't wriggle out of.

The TEFL Tradesman said...

I do like that one, the direct approach - "Why do you accredit schools that treat their teachers like dirt?"

I'll be in touch with them soon, and let you know the reply.

vilges suola said...

The university dept where I work was recently 'approved' by the Brit Council, and more recently still 'spot-checked'. The two inspections involved sending elderly matrons to drop into classes for a few minutes and then pronounce on the quality of the teaching they witnessed so briefly. They commented positively for the most part, but what a farce. I have observed hundreds of classes as a teacher trainer and would never consider myself equipped to judge anyone's teaching on the strength of a few minutes kibbitzing and a pro-forma lesson plan.

vilges suola said...

P.S. Glad I found you. Am going to put a link to you on my own blog.

Old Lag said...

Interesting stuff, Sandy. It's ironic how much the inspectors get paid, considering the horrendous amount of unpaid work their inspections cause the staff to have to do. Even worse, the staff's compliance at BC inspection time is utterly unquestioned, because if they do question it, they are out.

What is this movement you speak of to reform things? Revolutionary!

Old Lag said...

One more thing, Sandy - an example from personal experience. I'll never forget the moment one school I worked in were informed of all the extra lesson plans they'd have to prepare in time for the BC observations - as well as their normal workload, and how upset and stressed they all were. There was nothing anyone could do. It was: work unpaid for hours and hours (literally), or have your professional reputation ruined by management - or worse, by the BC.

Shocking, and utterly unprofessional too.

Anonymous said...

The majority of BC inspectors are middle aged, middle class old biddies who parade around schools like the Raj memsahibs. The men ... a contradiction of the word.