According to the latest data from BONARD for English UK, student weeks decreased by 71% and the number of students decreased by 84% in English language schools in the UK in 2020. These figures are even more alarming than those in a previous analysis, and some schools have been unable to weather the pandemic’s effects.
“At least 32 ELT member centers closed as a result of Covid-19, corresponding to 8% of the English UK membership in 2019.”
Despite the numbers, Jodie Gray, Chief Executive of English UK, maintains that a full recovery by the end of 2022 is still the goal:
“By the end of 2022, we want to be back to 2019 student volumes, and then exceed them in a second phase. We’re launching a campaign to send clear messages about safety and quality to our key markets, and we’ll need rigorous, granular statistics and analysis to track progress and adjust course if necessary.”
We’ll concentrate on private sector ELT schools in this article because they account for 87 percent of the association’s membership, 83 percent of all students, and 71 percent of all student weeks.
The junior division
The junior market has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic: students under the age of 18 account for only 23% of the total ELT student population in 2020. In comparison, in 2019, younger students accounted for more than half (54%) of the overall market. Last year, they accounted for only 7% of student weeks, whereas this year they accounted for 27%.
Blended learning is becoming popular in schools
Many schools have had a difficult time transitioning to an online mode of instruction for the first time. While more than half of students were taught one-on-one, 30% switched to a blended learning method (face-to-face followed by online or vice versa). One in every five students learned entirely online, “either within (4%) or outside (10%) the United Kingdom.”
As Ms. Gray points out, English UK schools’ ability to adapt to online delivery so quickly is commendable:
“The numbers of students enrolling in blended courses tell a story of resourcefulness, resilience, and innovation, all of which are critical cornerstones of recovery.”
Drops in major source markets are significant
In comparison to 2019, the following table shows the top sending markets and their contribution during the pandemic. Italy experienced some of the steepest declines (82 percent fewer student weeks), and there were far fewer students coming in from Western Europe than usual, which correlates with the steep declines in the junior market. EU juniors typically come to the UK for camps in the summer, but for the majority of them, this was made nearly impossible last year.
In 2020, the average length of stay for English-language students in the United Kingdom increased.
“With the exception of Colombia and Chile, all of the top nationalities saw their average length of stay increase between 2019 and 2020. In 2020, the shorter-stay market was the hardest hit, as students who were willing to travel chose longer stays.”
Almost all of the students who chose longer stays were adults with more year flexibility than school-aged students. “In 2020, the average length of stay for adults was 6.7 weeks (up from 4.9 in 2019) and 1.9 weeks for juniors (up from 1.8 in 2019),” according to English UK.