MORE than 150 English language centres have closed in Spain over the past seven months in an affair that has badly damaged the reputation of the sector.
More than 1,500 language teachers, many from the UK, have lost their jobs, but the Spanish media are focusing on the 60,000-plus students left with no classes, most of whom are being forced to pay for the full course.
The crisis was triggered by the collapse in July of the Opening School franchise, which catered for 46,000 students in 90 centres.
Instead of paying schools directly, most students signed an instalment-based credit agreement with a financial institution. The small print stated they were legally bound to pay the full amount should the school close.
The plight of these students triggered a loss of confidence in other chains, many of which use the same payment system.
The crisis became acute this month, particularly in Catalonia, where the Cambridge English chain closed its doors on 9,000 students, suspending the pay of 115 workers. The Wall Street Institute shut 12 centres. This followed the closure of the Brighton school in December and the Oxford English chain in January.
Hundreds of language teachers demonstrated in front of the Catalan parliament on February 7, calling for the government to regulate language schools.
On February 11 a Barcelona judge ruled in favour of an Opening School student who had refused to pay the money he owed to the bank. Meanwhile, the Association of Language Schools of Catalonia has decided to allow students from the affected schools to join their classes for free.