The Chatteris Educational Foundation has been a registered non-profit charitable organisation in Hong Kong since 1990. The Foundation’s focus is running a unique programme that places graduate native English speakers, or those with Native-speaking English competency aged 18-25 mainly from the UK, Canada, US, Australia and New Zealand in schools throughout Hong Kong to help students improve their English.
Stage 1: The English Language Teaching Assistant (ELTA) and the English Development Programme (CEDP) for schools 1990-2005
The programme began in 1990 when Mrs. Evelyn Fergusson and Mrs. Margaret Kwee, now trustees of the Foundation, started working as volunteers, chatting in their spare time to a small number of Hong Kong students. As the importance of these chat sessions grew, so too did the reputation of their work. Later that year, the Chatteris Educational Foundation was established.
The Foundation’s work soon spread to more and more schools across Hong Kong who wanted native English speakers to help provide new opportunities for their students. Eventually demand became too great and the original volunteers were unable to give the time commitment that the schools needed.
In 1994, the Foundation contacted Gap Activity Projects in the UK and recruited some eighteen year-old secondary school leavers for the Foundation’s programmes in Hong Kong. These pioneer students, the first ELTAs, were shared among several schools. As more schools realised the potential of having their students interact with young native English speakers, the scope of the programme rapidly increased leading to today’s Chatteris Schools Programme. In 2001-2002 there were eighty ELTAs in schools around Hong Kong. From 1995 to 2003 Chatteris was sponsored by the Language Fund and the Quality Education Fund of the Hong Kong Government respectively.
In 2003, with schools demands and expectations changing, Chatteris established a range of other services for schools including staff and curriculum development, consultancy service, English Language Environment Enrichment Programme (ELEEP) and a new position - the Graduate English Language Teaching Assistant (GELTA) for recent university graduates.
Stage 2: The Chatteris Native-speaking English Tutors (CNETs) and the Chatteris International Graduate Programme (CIGP) 2006-present
From here there were further upgrades to the Chatteris programme. The post of Graduate English Language Teaching Assistant (GELTA) was renamed Graduate English Language Tutor (GELT) in 2005, and again renamed in 2007 to Chatteris Native-speaking English Tutor (CNET). From September 2006 onwards, Chatteris staff have consisted only of graduates. The programme has also been redesigned to cater for the career development needs of these university graduates. It is now known as the ‘Chatteris International Graduate Programme in Hong Kong’. Under this programme, graduates are offered the opportunity not only to work in schools but to get involved in various community programmes, cultural activities and development projects. The Chatteris English Development Programme for schools still remains the driving force of the work that these graduates do in schools.
Stage 3: Now and the road ahead
Since 2012 Chatteris has fully launched a scheme to bring up the best TESOL teachers for Hong Kong students by supporting CNETs with strong passion and commitment to developing a first career in TESOL teaching and education. Chatteris provides a career route for CNETs through combining qualifications from top British universities, school based experience and the interactive, communicative, principled and task-based teaching that represents the Chatteris approach. This approach is complemented by harnessing the increasing amount of new technology available to change the way English is taught in schools. As a result of all this, Chatteris increasingly is seen as a change agent for schools wishing to develop the way English learning is experienced by students.
A first career in TESOL opens opportunities for CNETs to go on to do many different things. In regards to education, CNETs have used the experience to develop a long term TESOL career, pursued employment at international schools or returned to teach in their home countries. If not pursuing a career in education CNETs have still found starting their first career in TESOL teaching valuable as a stepping stone to other opportunities that demand high calibre international applicants with experience. Other reasons CNETs have pursued their first career in TESOL have been to develop personally and professionally, as a springboard for travelling before settling down in their home countries or to save money.
Chatteris Community Programmes
Chatteris has a number of established and developing community programmes where partnerships have been formed with voluntary organisations and educational institutions. Some examples include the Saturday English Enhancement Programme for schools, Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Pathways Foundation Limited. These established programmes offer CNETs the opportunity to make and active contribution to the Hong Kong Community. For example, the Saturday English Enhancement Programme (SEEP) aims to help students from low economic backgrounds to develop their English proficiency by providing opportunities they might otherwise not have access to. CNETs work with Pathways Foundation Limited to support students and raise awareness of young people who have specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia and AD/HD.
Chatteris is aware that CNETs are interested in other volunteering opportunities across Hong Kong. So providing CNETs go through the relevant procedures with Chatteris, they have the opportunity to locate other community opportunities and develop these links with Chatteris. As a result, many other one off volunteering opportunities have become available to CNETs, for example working with the Hong Kong Beach Clean-Up, Hands on Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Dog Rescue. As Chatteris enters an exciting period of development and stability it is hoped that these community programmes can be further developed for the benefit of Hong Kong and for CNETs to become even more integrated into the Hong Kong community.