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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Shane Schools / Saxoncourt Recruitment


How could I have possibly forgotten about Shane and Saxoncourt, the definitive global Tefl Cowboys?! Here are a selection of comments about them from other websites and blacklists. Got that bargepole ready? You'll certainly need it!

To the left you have a genuine TEFL cowboy. Paul Mitchell of Shane Schools and now Marketing Manager for Saxoncourt Recruitment in London. How much misery has this smarmy self-opinionated twit caused to countless teachers? Here's how he describes himself on the Saxoncourt Recruitment website:

Hello,

I’m Paul and I work for Saxoncourt (recruitment) in our central London school. Having worked for Shane English Schools in Japan for two years and with Saxoncourt for six, I have been lucky to have been involved in some major changes – mostly good, occasionally not so god but always interesting. Having spent four years responsible for recruiting what seems like a million teachers for Shane in japan I am now charged with the duty of marketing Saxoncourt’s operations in the UK – raising our profile with other TT colleges and EFL teachers throughout the world.

I am looking forward to working with StaR members throughout the world and am sure that we can establish Saxoncourt as the first choice for prospective and experienced EFL teachers.

Paul

The Inspector senses a half-admission in the phrase "occasionally not so god" Interesting that he says god instead of good (a freudian slip no doubt). No Paul you are not God even though you may be lording it over your long-suffering "millions of teachers", oh and Paul, considering that you are suposed to be an EFL school manager don't you think someone should have told you that "japan" is wrong. It should have a capital letter, you know one of those BIG letters to make it "Japan". Sloppy - but isn't that the hallmark of Shane and Saxoncourt which of course are one and the same thing?

So the Headmaster will have to keep you in detention and write out fifty times. My name is Paul Mitchell and I dunno me grammur but I'm gonna lern.

Now down to the nitty gritty..............

There is a lot of negative stuff on the net about Shane. None of it is wrong, but some is inaccurate. Let me rectify these inaccuracies.

People are leaving Shane in droves, and they are experiencing problems recruiting new staff. This is mainly due to the multitude of illegal practices the company carries out and acts of intimidation that have become common knowledge via the internet and word of mouth in Japan.

For example if you are sick they charge you a day and a half’s pay (people have been forced to leave due to this and incur huge debts), and pay the cover teacher half a day’s pay (if they are lucky).

The healthcare is also a total scam, and gives kickbacks to Shane. They are expensive and reserve the right not to pay out. If they do, it takes months, and goes through so many NZ bank accounts, which all charge a handling fee, you are lucky to get 75% back. The Japanese national scheme costs less for your first year than Global healthcare does for two months and it's not impossible to get off of it once you are on, contrary to Shane’s mantra.

You must work 13 extra days a year unpaid. Days off are rarely consecutive. Unpaid leave must be applied for three months in advance, with no guarantee of getting it. They do not pay all travel expenses as promised. When you arrive, you are charged highly inflated prices for apartments, bedding etc. You must then pay back the money used as a deposit within three months, so you are held to financial ransom for a quarter of your first year.

They also demand that you have a telephone and are contactable at all times, yet won't install a phone or sponsor you for a phone to be installed. They send bad references when you leave and show you a false copy. They tell future employers that they are considering taking legal action against you for leaving to scare them out of hiring you. They ask for two months notice to leave. This is illegal. The law says that you must give two weeks, unless your contract states otherwise; then one month is the maximum. If a national holiday falls on pay day, you get your money after the holiday.

They sell themselves as a 'British' English school, yet use American language texts. They lie to students to get them to buy the same book for their children twice and keep them in the same class with no prospect of progressing. They only use their own home made texts which are terrible and full of errors. Students are put into any available, level class to maintain targets.

There are many teachers that have been with Shane for around 8 to 10 years, but they came here when the economy was good, and their pay hasn't changed since then, and they couldn't earn that money elsewhere. People trying to start unions have not had their contracts renewed.

In a recent typhoon which killed 7 people, teachers were forced to stay in the schools and not allowed to go home early even though most students cancelled and the train lines shut down. Contracts state you will get an hour for lunch yet the reception staff are told to only allot you 45 minutes. Students are told lies about why you leave the company. Japanese receptionists are paid less than they are in a local hamburger shop.

I could go on longer but I'll leave it for your good selves to double check all of this. Try www.efl-law.com/japan or www.ewaosaka.org, or call the Tokyo Bar Association on 03 3581 1511 to have a contract checked by a Japanese solicitor with a translator for free. Other than that, come here and get a job in a state school.

James, ripoffbuster@hotmail.com, Tokyo,

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I recently left Shane after working for them in Japan for abour 15 months. I have to agree that they should be avoided at all costs. The vast majority of Shane teachers are deeply unhappy in their jobs, and at the time that I made my departure, teachers were leaving in their droves to work for other language schools. Morale is kept deliberately low by removing holidays at the last minute, unfair distribution of cover days teachers are required to work, and frequent impositions on teachers´ free time by requiring them to teach additional hours for very little, and sometimes no additional reward.

Accommodation is very, very small and poorly furnished and they charge roughly twice the market value for it, thereby making a profit from their teachers accommodation needs. Most other schools subsidise teacher accommodation.

Attitudes to their teachers vary. Some DOSs are fine, but central management at Shane HQ seem to regard teachers as property rather than people. Shane provide virtually no professional support. As far as I am aware (and I did make enquiries) none of the DOSs has more than a CELTA, which means that if you wanted to undertake a DELTA you would be in trouble, as there is most likely no one within the company who will be able to act as your mentor (a requirement for anyone wishing to undertake a DELTA by distance study).

And if you find yourself in any kind of trouble, you can expect absolutely no assistance from the company. Their only concern is that you turn up for work, regardless of what calamity may have befallen you. I certainly wouldn´t recommend Shane as a first teaching job. It really offers no potential for professional development and in the majority of cases seems to put people off the teaching profession. Just about everyone leaves with a fairly bitter taste in their mouth, and I would suggest that any postings to the contrary are certainly written and posted by Shane management, or DOSs, under instructions from head office.

A bad company to work for. Very disappointing.

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I left Shane after my home was flooded in a typhoon. I lost quite literally everything I owned, including my home, my clothes and eight months of work for an MA in Applied Linguistics.

So, having nowhere to live and no possessions other than the clothes I wore to work that day, my partner and I decided to leave our jobs and move to her home town in the west of Japan, where we would at least have a roof over our heads and some assistance from her family in straightening ourselves out.

My DoS was very sympathetic and understood the necessity to leave the company without serving a period of notice. Unfortunately the Principal of Shane English Schools did not share his compassion and proceeded to chastise me as if I were a badly behaved child. This just two days after I had lost everything.

I am 37 years old and I spent the ten years prior to my employment with Shane working as a journalist at a number of newsrooms in Moscow and London. Newsrooms can be aggressive and highly competitive working environments, but I never experienced such intransigence and insensitivity in any of those where I worked.

Of course, the day to day experience of working for Shane is not so extreme, the Japanese staff are generally very helpful and in most schools there exists a co-operative and amiable working relationship between school managers and teachers. However, senior management seem to consistently demonstrate a quite staggeringly complete disregard for the well being of teachers, which must inevitably affect the way teachers perform in the classroom. This, combined with the lack of resources (schools have no photocopiers or internet access, and you are restricted to using Shane´s own texts for all but upper intermediate and advanced classes) alongside the absence of potential for professional development and the inadequate and overpriced accommodation I outlined in my previous posting, means that the majority of Shane teachers are permanently demoralized and unhappy.

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I worked for SHANE English School in Chiba, then Tokyo in 2004/05. Fresh from doing a Cert Trinity TESOL it was my first (real) teaching job. I had been on the JET programme in Fukuoka for one year in 99/00.

I found SHANE good in that it was able to be fully-arranged outside Japan, in fact, by the English language school that hosted the Trinity course. Also, they meet new teachers at the airport, which is more than my present school in Prague did. However, finding your way from A to B on the subway is virtually impossible for the fresh teacher arriving at Narita Airport, and taxis impossibly expensive, unlike Prague.

I soon came to see SHANE as a post-cert training organisation, rather than a serious education provider. Scheduling was rather higgledy-piggledy, sometimes up to 10 different classes in the 6-hour teaching period. Chiba is traditionally a district hard to recruit to, meaning many days like this - rushed.

I will briefly speak about the three different DOS's I had, before briefing you on the financial shenanigans.

The first DOS was great, professional to a fault, empathetic despite the sometimes impossible task of assigning staff to back-breaking contact hours, and a good sense of humour. However, she up and left suddenly when her district was merged for cost cutting reasons, delivering two districts into the hands of a merciless SHANE warrior.

This fellow was well suited to wielding a stick, had no real social skills to persuade teachers to work the endless standby and cover days required for a short-staffed district, dismissed a teacher with great prejudice who had only been in the country two weeks for not being able to teach to the required standard (usually a DOS would take a personal interest to coach, you would think...) then allocated him four weeks of continuous cover while he completed the final month's employment! Eyesbrows were raised amongst many of us teachers at the logic of this.

Finally, at the end of 12 months in Chiba, I managed a transfer to the West Tokyo district. This district had a much better DOS and even scheduling. You will see some postings on this site on how the quality of Shane DOS can affect your stay, bear it in mind.

This is not meant to be a diatribe against Chiba district. It is just that I had such different experiences in the three districts I worked in. After merging, a few problems popped up with the salary payments. Outlines as follows:

1. Sometimes the extra 'standby' hours I worked were not included in the monthly salary calculations.
2. Three times the 5,000 yen 'cover' day bonus was not included at the end of the three month calculation period. Today, I am told teachers on new contracts don't even get this. Be prepared to work on your day off for free, with the real chance of not receiving one pence for your effort.
3. When I moved out of the SHANE apartment, the staff took out double the amount for final power and gas bills. I ended up having to catch a train to collect the refund (not reimbursed despite requests) as the two district admin offices' payroll systems couldn't, or wouldn't talk to each other...

So yes, you should be careful to check salary payments and keep utility receipts. When mistakes occur at Shane, it generally seem to be at your disadvantage.

SHANE was a punch-drunk, cash rooting, commercially-charging bull. The money supply screwed down extremely tight, and the fat little man has a truly gasp-worthy array of tactics to get teachers into working like little trojans for low pay.


Posted by Geetus on St. Dave's and saved by The Inspector before the thread is shredded.

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Inspector McHammered of the Lard

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Bell Thailand Centre - TJAS, Bangkok

Hi Sandy

A posting for your page if you want it -

Bell Thailand Centre - Thai-Japanese Association School

I'd like to tell you about the situation at the TJAS Bell Centre in Bangkok. Warning fellow Thailand TEFLERS - the pay at Bell TJAS may be reasonable and the conditions appealing but DON'T APPLY.

I want to make it clear that this posting has nothing to do with the school itself - it's really well run, the Japanese staff are terrific and the kids are cool. However, the Bell Language Centre within the school is a different story.

Mainly the issue is with the centre manager, who is, for want of a better word, a bully. He has so far driven EIGHT conscientious, well-qualified and experienced teachers out of the place. These former staff members even formed their own INTERNET SUPPORT GROUP on Yahoo for people who had to suffer under him. Almost every single staff member who has left in the past 18 months has been a member of this group - that's a nearly a 100% staff dissatisfaction rating.

The main issues with this manager are -

1. Holding “staff votes” for the appearance of democracy and then vetoing staff voting decisions, for instance on choice of course books etc.

2. Blatant favouritism shown to his "inner circle", despite the highly unprofessional behaviour of members of this coterie, including unexplained absences from work due to drug overdoses.

3. Turning a blind eye to staff members being bullied by members of his inner circle, despite requests for help from the bullied party. This eventually led to the victim of bullying having to leave the job.

4. Observing staff lessons without a notice period.

5. Refusing to do sickness cover (one of his management duties), instead placing the pressure for absentee cover on busy colleagues.

6. Treating PGCE qualified teachers, some with years of teaching and management experience, as if they are17 year old Gap Year TEFLRS who aren’t capable of making informed professional decisions about anything. No coincidence that most of his staff are better qualified than him – could it be insecurity at work on his part?

7. A complete refusal to hold staff meetings or allow any staff members to raise issues and concerns which are troubling them.

8. Inventing meaningless, irrtaional tasks which prevent teachers from planning lessons.

9. A policy of targeting members of staff who disagree with his policies and bullying them out of their jobs by making their work lives a misery.

10. Refusing to communicate verbally with staff members, insisting that people with desks a stone's throw away communicate with him via email.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but gives an overview of what's going on down there.

No doubt you’ll get a couple of replies from members of the “inner circle” to this post, singing the praises of TJAS and the manager. They’ll also focus mainly on positive attributes of the school itself (which are not in question), rather than responding to the issues raised about the Bell centre.

Then they’ll peddle some cod New Age baloney, accusing the eight unhappy former staff members of "being bitter", of "having a bad attitude" and suggest that we "move on" with our lives. Funny how all eight of us performed well in our jobs, observations and reviews and were hired by Bell in the first place. They have a right to disagree with us I suppose, but it’s because we have moved on that we're now all able to have a laugh about our experiences there. It wasn't funny at the time though....

Cheers Sandy

Duke of TEFL

Inspector McHammered of the Lard
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