English language schools struggling with border restrictions plead for Government assistance

English language schools struggling with border restrictions plead for Government assistance

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Some schools have already been forced to close permanently because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Source: 1 NEWS

English language schools are struggling with the restrictions at our borders, with some already being forced to close permanently.

The industry's warning more will follow in the coming weeks, if the Government doesn't step in.

English New Zealand, which represents 22 schools nationwide, says it just wants a simple meeting with the minister.

“We have not been able to get a meeting with Minister Hipkins in the last four months,” chairman Darren Conway said

“Schools will close every couple of weeks from now on if we don’t get some support really quickly.”

Principal of Dominion English Schools, Andrew Fisher, said, “We’re on our knees really”.

He’s told his 18 staff that after the wage subsidy runs out in August, that’s it.

“They’re all going to be looking at redundancy”, he said, “It’s a really sad time”.

The school, which is 50 years old, usually has more than 200 students on their roll. Right now, there are just 40.

“With no students coming in we can’t have a decent sized school, and that’s why we’re in trouble,” Mr Fisher said.

Mr Conway says the English Language school industry contributes around $800 million to the economy each year.

He claims schools only earn 10 per cent of that in fees, saying “it all goes across the economy to homestays, tourism, local transport, local retail”.

“A school closing is not just the school, it's the impact across the whole economy.”

He says there are around 40 English Language schools spread across the country and approximately 800 staff.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins today said, “I do want to acknowledge that that's a really difficult situation for the english language schools”.

“Unlike polytechnics, universities and even schools, the people who come for english language schools often come on visitor visas, so it's the most restricted group of people at the moment,” he said.

“There will be additional Government support available for them and I'll have announcements to make on that very soon,” Mr Hipkins said, “It will not preserve the status quo indefinitely, some will have to make adjustments”.

In an ideal world, “we've made a bid for 5 million dollars which we think will support us through to when the borders are open, that's less than some individual tourism businesses have received,” Mr Conway said,

But his first priority is having a meeting with Mr Hipkins.

Can we have a conversation in the next couple of weeks? Because there may be nobody left to have a conversation with after that”.