Some clips of Flight of the Conchords. "Business Time" and "Jenny" are partcularly great. Two very talented and funny Kiwis!

Saturday, October 20, 2007 - International Tefl Certificate Barcelona

This tale of woe which happened a few years ago in Barcelona, Spain has been saved for posterity, as the company in question still appears to be trading. This is not an official blacklisting more of a warning to be careful when dealing with this organisation. If they care to respond I'd be more than happy to post anything they have to say and as usual if they are innocent will amend or remove the article (which appeared in The Prague Post as their head office appears to be based in the Czech Republic). They may well be a type of Catus Tefl outfit selling anything to anyone as long as the commision is right, so your beloved Inspector feels that a warning notice needs to be published to all you unsuspecting Teflers.

Angry students struggle for refund

Company boss says money repaid, denies wrongdoing

By Peter Kononczuk
Staff Writer, The Prague Post

Angry students claim a Prague-based training company left them stranded in Spain after canceling their course and then -- for months, despite repeated promises -- failed to refund the fees they had paid to train as English-language teachers.

The owner of ITC International TEFL Certificate s.r.o., Iva Brozova, denies she defrauded clients. She insists that students who were owed money have been repaid, and that her firm has had a good record for a decade.

However, her company has had its membership canceled by the College of Teachers, a professional body that says ITC has not complied with rules requiring integrity and conduct that does not bring the profession into disrepute.

Around 18 people, most from the United States, enrolled in an October course in Barcelona run by ITC, which is based in an office on Kaprova street, near Prague's Old Town Square.

Bridget Lynott said she paid 1,050 euros ($1,400) for the four-week program in teaching English as a foreign language, known as TEFL, a type of qualification required by many language schools around the world.

"I left my work and home to relocate to Barcelona. I paid for accommodation, health insurance and flights," Lynott said. "However, upon my arrival in Spain, on Oct. 7, a representative of ITC informed me that the course was canceled. On Oct. 8 the office was closed down ... I was unable to reach anyone in Prague or Barcelona and my messages went unanswered."

Lynott said her fellow students have filed a complaint with the FBI in the United States and with police in Barcelona.

After The Prague Post spoke to Brozova, Lynott said Dec. 20 that the ITC boss had finally assured her a refund has been made and faxed Lynott a receipt of the money transfer.

"As of yet, I have not received any money but it can take up to several days," Lynott added.

However, Nicole Flessati, a 29-year-old Swiss-American, who teaches English in Barcelona, said she had not been repaid the fees she paid for the canceled October course.

Other students who signed up for training in Spain are also angry.

"Many of us saved up all of our money for this trip and changed our lives around to travel across the world only to do this program," said 22-year-old Bob Murphy of Chicago, speaking by phone from Madrid.

"The majority of us are recent college graduates who spent all of their money on the course along with flight, insurance, and housing," he added. "I, however, was extremely fortunate because my bank returned the majority of my money to me because of 'services unrendered.' I was very lucky though."

Erwin Ebens, 40, told The Prague Post that he was the director of an ITC course in Barcelona in September, which was interrupted when staff walked out.

"The owner was often late paying many staff. That's why many of them left. They did not want to work in those circumstances," Ebens said. "By the fourth week of the course, all the staff had walked out in Barcelona -- four part-time freelancers and me. It was very stressing and unpleasant."

Ebens said he agreed to come back and finish overseeing the last two days of the program.

"To date, some staff still have not been fully paid. I am still owed about 1,000 euros by ITC," Ebens added.

Conflicting versions

Brozova, however, gave a different version of events. She insists that her firm is not in financial difficulties, says staff members have been paid and denies that students arriving in Barcelona were left stranded.

"The trainers delivered the whole product [in September] ... There was a health problem with the main trainer, and that's why we also canceled the October course," Brozova said.

She added, "All money was returned to the clients' accounts," and said students had been warned beforehand that the October course had been canceled.

Brozova said that over the past 10 years her company had graduated more than 3,000 students.

"They are satisfied and successful. The October course is the first we have ever canceled," she continued, adding that students were offered a January course in Prague as a replacement without extra payment.

Meanwhile, a number of the students were incredulous that ITC was still listing courses in Barcelona next year on its Web site, even though the firm says it will scrap its training programs in the Spanish city from January.

Challenged Dec. 20 as to why Barcelona courses were still being advertised on the Internet, Brozova simply replied: "It's not on the Web site." Barcelona courses were still on the site as of the morning of Dec. 21 but were removed that afternoon.

On the reasons that the Barcelona program would be shelved, Brozova said "the rules are getting more and more strict," for Americans who want to work in Spain, and "we do also try to find a job for our graduates, so it doesn't make any sense for Americans to go to Spain, not being able to work there."

Meanwhile, a woman who said she worked at ITC's Prague office until she quit on Dec. 14 said she thought it was "really wrong" that the company was still listing a training program in Barcelona on the Internet at the time she resigned.

"It's part of the reason I left. There were a lot of decisions made that are totally against my ethics. I think it has to stop," said the woman, who asked not to be named.

She added, "I don't want to be responsible for a course breaking halfway through and then having to deal with all the people who put all their savings into this and who then come with all these expectations and then [have] their dreams shattered. That would be awful."

The woman added that she believed courses run by ITC in Prague would continue unaffected.

Membership canceled

Matthew Martin, a spokesman for the College of Teachers, a body for the teaching profession in Britain that awards accreditation for schools internationally, said his organization has rescinded ITC's membership. He added, however, that as far as its course material was concerned, ITC was "a very reputable organization."

Brozova suggested that a business rival had written to the College of Teachers to complain against her company.


Inspector McHammered of the Lard in Pamplona, Spain

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TEFL Jobs in Spain

  1. The Pain in Spain
  2. Komalingua SL Basque Country
  3. Bonas Inernational School Valencia
  4. Daleena International Language Centre Malaga
  5. Wall Street Institute, Spain

The Pain in Spain

Much as the Inspector has maligned the Guardian for hidden link selling to those shysters Cactus Tefl, here is an article from the Guardian well worth reading..............

Tales of bad employers abound in the Spanish Tefl industry. Jasper Knight tells you how to spot a good job and how to protect yourself once you get it.

Spanish friends often bemoan that while living in Spain is great, working in Spain is not. Private language academies are no exception and tales of unfair work practices, exploitative employers, poor pay and dubious payslips are all too common.
There are positive aspects to working for an academy. In contrast to private classes, they provide financial stability (some even pay a salary) - many classes last the academic year and there are fewer cancellations.

Through an academy, morning and afternoon classes are far easier to find - these are times that are notoriously difficult to fill with private classes. Most provide materials, a course outline and the Head of Studies is on hand to provide help and advice, which can be essential when teaching children. Academies are also good places to find private classes, either through recommendation or by subtly poaching students.

The problem in Spain is that there aren't many academies that treat their employees very well. Academies recommended by teachers are few and far between. Also, they are not altruistic educational institutions, but businesses that need to turn a profit. The student is the client, and what is good for business is not necessarily good for students or staff.

Some academies put students into the next level even if they fail, so that they continue to receive their money. This makes teaching harder. Many people who run academies appear unconcerned if their students don't learn anything. To them, the teacher's job seems to be to entertain, to ensure students are happy and, more importantly, to keep the euros rolling in. Experienced teachers expect nothing less, and many prefer to be left to teach what they want, how they want.

Legally, all employers have to give their staff contracts. After one year, employees are entitled to a permanent contract, with paid holidays and no dismissal without a redundancy payment. Academies get around this by offering temporary contracts for seven or eight months, and rehire teachers after the summer.

The holidays are therefore a period of uncertainty and worry. Teachers have to find additional employment in July, August and September, often working in summer schools or living off savings. Some contracts state that they finish at the "end of the course", leaving plenty of room for interpretation - some teachers have been given just one day's notice. Be warned that the academic year finishes on June 30th, and contracts may be terminated even if classes run until the end of July.

A contract is only really important if teachers plan to stay for the longer term, but many teachers work without a contract because they aren't given the choice. If teachers are working legally, they and their employers have to make social security payments.

Working for a year entitles you to three months' unemployment benefit at 70% of your salary. The Spanish benefits system is modelled on a savings scheme - it is your money, and it is set aside for you. However, very few academies declare everything you earn. Instead, many only declare between 10% and 50% of your salary - the rest is handed to you in an envelope. This creative accounting means that when it comes to claiming unemployment benefit, teachers are entitled to very little.

According to the agreement made between the government and the unions, teachers should earn 8.90 euros an hour. Assuming that English teachers do 30 minutes' preparation, arrive 10 minutes early for class and travel around one hour for every hour they teach, ¿8.90 is not a good deal.

Some academies pay less, while others pay up to ¿20 an hour. Teachers work, on average, 20 hours a week. Some teachers may be salaried to work 10 hours but will actually work more and only get paid for 10. Wages in Spain are generally bad. Since the introduction of the euro, prices (especially property) have increased while wages have not. Marking extra exams, writing reports, collecting and dropping things off, taxiing other teachers to classes in the academy's car, meetings and preparing specialised topics also take up more of the teachers' time. All of which is covered in the hourly rate for contact classes.

Teachers have been told that they can't be sick; one girl who had lost her voice still had to give her classes by writing on the board. Bullying is not unheard of. Some managers use meetings as a platform to publicly criticise teachers to the point where staff are literally terrified in case they have done something wrong; no matter how petty, small or ridiculous. One teacher ended up having anxiety attacks before meetings. Friends have spoken of being insulted and shouted at in front of students for minor things. These are extreme examples, but they are too often heard.

So why do teachers put up with it? Competition is tough and teachers know that, if they complain, they won't be rehired in September. Some academies receive five to 10 CVs a week, meaning that teachers can be replaced, as one manager put it, "with one phone call". In reality, a contract offers little security.

So what is the best way to deal with exploitative employers? Don't be afraid of moving on, try to work for at least two academies, and find as many private classes as possible. Talk to other teachers to discover the employers that take care of and listen to their staff. However few, they do exist; you just have to look for them.


Inspector McHammered of the Lard in Pamplona, Spain

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Tarred With the Same Brush?

The Daily Telegraph had this to say about the arrest of the suspected paedophile Christopher Neil:

According to Rosalind Prober of Beyond Boarders, a Canadian Organisation that combats child sex tourism, many offenders use teaching as a cover for their activities.

"The children are sitting ducks. This is their teacher. This is someone you trust and tells you what to do," she said.

"You very quickly get trapped. There is such a level of control and power by a teacher. It’s multiplied when it comes to a foreign teacher."

She published a conversation conducted on the internet by two Western teachers in the region.

"I am having a wonderful time with them sexually. Some of them are very interesting. There is never a dull moment," wrote one of them. "Last night, four boys spent the night and I like all four of them."

What a great advert for TEFL.


Inspector McHammered of the Lard in Pamplona, Spain

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