English language centres closing,; teetering

English language centres closing,; teeteringEnglish language centres closing, ‘teetering’

English language centres in New Zealand have closed, some are “teetering”, and almost all will be shut by the end of this year, if foreign students aren’t allowed into the country before then, a group representing schools says.

English New Zealand chairman Darren Conway said student numbers at most of the 22 centres the association represented were down 70-80 per cent.

Centres in Napier and Auckland had been forced to close since New Zealand shut its borders in response to the coronavirus pandemic in March, he said.

“On average, across our sector, students stay for about 11 weeks. We’ve now had roughly 11 weeks since lockdown started, so we’re running out of students.”

The centre Conway ran in Auckland had survived due to the wage subsidy, but that ran out in just over a month, he said.

“When people have to meet the full cost of staffing, and their rent and all their other costs, and they don’t have income, that’s a different picture.”

News that the Government had ruled out allowing international students into New Zealand in July and August was “not totally unexpected”, he said.

“We assumed it would take until about September until the Government started opening the borders again.

“If they pushed that date out, it won’t be good.”

Foreigners wanting to learn English should be allowed to come to New Zealand, if they were willing to pay for their quarantine, Conway said.

They needed warning, so that they could arrive as soon as they were allowed in, he said.

“We would like a date.

“Rather than the Government saying; ‘not now, not now’, we would like them to say, ‘OK this is a difficult problem to solve, but we’ve got two months to solve it and on this date, we’re going to open the borders, with quarantining’.”

The English language teaching sector as a whole contributed about $700 million a year to GDP, and supported about 7000 jobs, Conway said.

Enough students would be willing to pay for quarantine, for it to “save lots of businesses and lots of jobs”, he said.

“The Government recognises that, but they should get on with it. I think their planning is too slow.”

Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology’s outgoing chief executive Liam Sloan said ruling out international students coming into New Zealand in July and August, was disappointing on a number of fronts.

The move not only affected student enrolments, but homestay opportunities for the local community, and local businesses, Sloan said.

New Zealand had to “hang on to” its Covid-19 community transmission free status. But, Sloan said some international students would “jump at the chance” to quarantine, for up to 21 days, if it meant they could continue their studies.

“What’s the difference from bringing a student from an international country, who wants to come and study here in New Zealand, and putting them in isolation. What’s the additional risk, from bringing a New Zealand citizen back into the country?”

In response to the call for international students to be allowed in if they paid for quarantine, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the Government’s top priority was the health and safety of New Zealanders.

New Zealand had no community transmission and the country’s borders were its first line of defence.

“We are acutely aware of the challenges the international education sector is facing,” Hipkins said.

“That’s why the Government has already put in place a range of measures to help cushion the impact of COVID-19 including cancelling the export education levy and providing the wage subsidy.

“International students are important and the Government will allow them to return when it is safe to do so.”

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