Cardiff language school positioned for recovery and international expansion

Cardiff-based English language school, Celtic English Academy, is getting ready to achieve significant business recovery and growth through exports, after winning a number of international contracts and diversifying its overseas offerings, with the help of the Welsh Government.

Over the past three years, the British Council accredited school, which delivers online, in person and hybrid English courses to international students, has landed four major new contracts across Europe, Africa and Asia, which it sees as key to helping propel it back to pre-pandemic levels.

Following a challenging year, the Academy has now set its sights on growing the business by placing a drive on exports and overseas contracts. Most recently, it has been awarded two remote teaching contracts with Kuwait and Vietnam, which will start in 2022. The projects will see the school deliver online sessions with national in-country partners to support English teacher development.

The contracts come off the back of Celtic English Academy’s successful involvement in a project in Zambia last year where it was one of just 20 UK English language teaching centres to be awarded a £10,000 Partnered Remote Language Improvement Project (PRELIM) grant to deliver English language and teacher development courses to over 150 English teachers in the country. The scheme was part of a wider international programme, led by the British Council, designed to help improve the confidence, language and teaching skills of English Teaching Association (ETA) members in 40 nations.

Pre-pandemic, Celtic English Academy also secured a six-year contract with the Swiss Government, worth over £1.4m, to deliver 12 weeks of English language training to 50 unemployed Swiss nationals per year to help improve their job prospects. The training will be delivered in Wales, once restrictions allow, at the school’s Cardiff based Academy. Following the completion of their studies, the students will sit the Cambridge First or Advanced Certificate exam, giving them a globally-recognised English language qualification that will boost their CVs.

Following these new contract wins, and export growth over the last five years, Celtic English Academy is now looking to further increase its international presence and is focusing on Latin America, Japan and the Middle East as key routes to business recovery and export growth. The school has recruited staff in Japan and Brazil, and is exploring in-country teaching opportunities in Saudi Arabia in response to rising demand for English language teaching in the region and changing national objectives.

Shoko Doherty, CEO of Celtic English Academy said: “We are immensely proud to export our English language teaching services all around the world. We have grown significantly since we first opened our doors over 15 years ago and our new contract wins are a result of our strategy to continually focus on diversifying and developing our international links.

“Exporting is central to us as a business. Working with students and teachers from a variety of nationalities, as well as our emphasis on being agile and adapting to changes, has helped us remain resilient, especially through the Covid-19 pandemic, as we are not reliant on one single market or region.”

Established in 2004, Celtic English Academy originally started out teaching English in four classrooms at serviced offices in Cardiff to learners who would progress to study at local universities as international students. Now, the school typically teaches over 1,200 students a year from more than 50 countries including Saudi Arabia, Italy, Spain and Japan, with exports accounting for 95% of trade.

Following the pandemic, the Academy swiftly adapted to offer remote online and hybrid teaching. Over the last year, it has also expanded its overseas ‘in country’ teaching provisions, providing teachers in a number of regions, after acquiring several export contracts.

Support from the Welsh Government’s Economic Resilience Fund for digital innovation has allowed the school to further diversify its services with the installation of high-quality conference camera equipment which has enabled hybrid teaching as well as the creation of a suite of professional development lessons and online learning tools for teachers overseas.

Key to its export success has been support from the Welsh Government over the years, including access to the Overseas Business Development Fund which has enabled representatives from the company to visit new markets and attend trade missions to find potential new clients or bring new products to already established markets. These include the launch of two junior summer schools for 11-17 year-olds in north and south Wales over the last five years.

Shoko added: “Most of our business has been secured by travelling abroad and meeting new clients directly. These interactions have been crucial to both attracting students to study at our school in Wales, as well as building relationships in order to obtain in-country contracts in target territories, so we are very thankful to the Welsh Government for their support in making this possible.”