On Tuesday 27th October at 4pm Anna Goodband, School Principal at Liverpool School of English, joined the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee. Along with other Liverpool based companies they discussed the impact that Covid-19 restrictions and Liverpool being placed into Tier 3 have had on local businesses and the economy. The meeting raised many interesting points with Lord Skidelsky stating that they had “been very moved by the evidence we have heard.”
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean chaired the committee and was joined by several other Lords and Baronesses. The other business included Nisha Katona MBE, the owner of the restaurant chain Mowgli, Mark Da Vanzo CEO of the Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse Theatres and Steven Hesketh, CEO of the Savvy Hotel Group.
The meeting began with the attendees discussing how the restrictions had affected their businesses so far and predicting how the next 6 months would look. It was interesting to hear from the other companies and Anna followed by pointing out the differences between us and the other attendees in terms of sectors. It was important to highlight to the Lords how the other businesses fit neatly into the hospitality and tourism sector whereas UK ELT isn’t recognised as hospitality, tourism, or education by the government. Anna raised and highlighted how this issue has negatively affected all language schools across the UK in terms of economic support and ineligibility for support grants. Anna also talked about the difficulty that many schools have faced in getting business rate relief which was something Lord Tugendhat was particularly interested in, asking for more information and detail to be provided after the meeting.
Another important issue that Anna raised was that when Liverpool was put into Tier 3 it made international news which hasn’t helped our school or the wider city in terms of a positive image. She talked about the impact of this for future bookings and how we did see an increase in postponements for the rest of the year as a result.
There was a lot of discussion by the participants around the imbalance across the country in terms of interventions and therefore support. Mark Da Vanzo highlighted this when he said “if there is an inherent imbalance between north and south, as undoubtedly there is, that imbalance will be preserved. There needs to be a longer-term ambition to look at how to address the imbalance.” Anna then went on to explain how important the levelling up agenda is to businesses in the region especially in terms of recovery from the financial impact of Covid-19.
Anna raised the importance of the ELT sector on local economies across the country and the positive contribution that all language schools make on the UK’s economy overall.
The closing question came from Lord Monks who asked everyone for one thing that the government could do to make an appreciable difference their businesses. Anna asked the government to make their position clearer on travel corridor guidance and to revisit the quarantine rules with regards to 14 days or 7 days. Anna mentioned that we have over 250 students who are waiting to come back and study with us. They’re in regular contact with us and want to come back and continue their learning but when we don’t know what’s going to happen week to week it makes it incredibly difficult for them to know what to do. Steven Hesko echoed this with a call to reopen the country and the importance of supporting people to be able to travel to the UK again.
Lord Forsyth ended the committee meeting by saying: “I thank our witnesses for what has been a very moving, and at times depressing but also uplifting, set of sessions. If the Government are listening, we are certainly going to produce a report with recommendations.”
The meeting was a fantastic chance for Liverpool School of English to represent the UK ELT sector and raise the important issues that we are facing as an industry, particularly those of us based in the North. Anna said: “It gave the language sector a voice and identity to raise concerns which so far has been overlooked during the COVID 19 pandemic by the national government.”
Lord Monks said of all the attendees: “I join with my colleagues in praising your resilience and guts in getting as far as you have and wish you well for the future.”
We hope that points raised by Anna and all of the participants have a positive affect and we look forward to hearing about the impact the report will have on UK ELT and businesses in the North.
You can watch the full committee meeting here.