It was fun to attend the ELTONS last week, the first time since I left the British Council last year, free of any sense of responsibility for the event, and with an “outsider” perspective.  The awards were started by my former colleague Cherry Gough in 2003, and I have been involved as a judge for several of the intervening years.

Having seen some of the entries already when helping judge last year’s ESU President’s Award, I rather rated Macmillan Global’s chances, but Macmillan, along with the other major UK ELT publishers, came away empty handed. Instead United International College (UIC), a London-based language school won with their entry Communication Station, alongside the BBC, with two web-based learning resources.

BBCe! is an Arabic and English bilingual conversation broadcast on FM radio in Egypt and across the Arab World. Rinku’s World is a multi-platform, English language teaching concept for Bangladeshi learners, with content accessible via prime-time TV broadcasts, mobile phone, print and the web.  The timing of these awards was probably very good for the BBC as its World Service is suffering major cuts, and hopefully the recognition of the BBC’s contribution to ELT will enable its Learning English division to continue.

ABAX ELT, based in Japan, won the Cambridge ESOL International Award for Innovation for their book Fiction in Action: Whodunit, a reading text for low to intermediate level English language learners.  They won in a strong field, having already won an ESU Award last Autumn in the book category.

The wonderful Brian Abbs and Ingrid Freebairn were awarded the British Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in English Language Teaching,  and in its second year, the Macmillan Education Award for Innovative Writing went to Simona Petrescu, from Romania, for a proposal for a Professional English for Human Resources (HR) course.

It has recently been suggested that  the British Council should “spread the love” by restricting the number of entries, or prizes that one publisher or content provider can be awarded.  I have some sympathy with that idea in that it’s really good to see small publishers and newcomers do well, and they need the recognition more than the BBC which has such a strong reputation and brand.  But I like the fact that large conglomerates and one-person bands are judged alongside each other using a very rigorous Delphi panel process , in which judges work independently, and the views of one powerful individual or “politics” have no sway, only the quality of each judge’s arguments in favour of an entry or against it, and ultimately their vote.

So I would probably keep the awards as they are, and hope other course providers, often under represented in the awards, will now be encouraged to follow in UIC’s footsteps. I hope too to see more mobile learning entries shortlisted, including more Smartphone Apps.