Duncan Foord is the co-founder of Oxford House, a language school and TESOL training institution established in 1998, which has centres in Prague and Barcelona. He is the director of the school in Barcelona. Oxford House teacher training courses include both the TESOL Cert. and DipTESOL, while in the language schools they teach a variety of adults and YLs, studying General English, as well as for Cambridge ESOL exams and Business English.
I was first approached by Sinead Laffan, who works in the school in Prague, and who was very keen on giving the company’s backing to TEFL Equity Advocates campaign. The problem of discrimination of nNESTs is important to both Sinead and Duncan, because a lot of the participants and graduates of the Teacher Training courses are non-native. Many of them often come across advertisements which specify that the candidate must be a native speaker, and the school has been doing its best to support equal employment rights for nNESTs.
As can be seen from Oxford House’s website, a lot of their teachers are nNESTs. However, it is commonly assumed by many language schools that in order to be successful, you need to hire NESTs, because this is what the student demand. This stereotype is especially strong in countries such as Spain, Hungary, or Poland, where for many years in the past many local English teachers did not speak very good English. As a result, the word non-native speaker became associated by many students with low quality of teaching. On the other hand, a native speaker guaranteed at least a good level of English. The very same fact was pointed out by Steve Oakes in this interview.
However, this is of course no longer the case nowadays. All teachers who finish the Trinity Cert. or an equivalent are at a C2 level, that is their English is as good as a native speaker’s. Despite the market demand that many recruiters refer to, Duncan has never heard a single complaint from any student about their teacher being a nNEST, which while to some might be surprising, shows that you can run a successful school without resorting to discriminating nNESTs.
Having said that, I wanted to know whether Duncan thought the school could be any more successful if they only employed NESTs. And this is the first question I asked him in the interview.