A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Stages's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Stages is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Highlighting best practice
JeanetteFelton, Managing
German student on a
retail placement
Jeanette Felton, the managing director of Stages Ltd, has
been arranging unpaid work experience programmes in
the Brighton area for EU students for almost 20 years. She
and her company have since serviced the needs of thousands
of students looking to enhance both their language skills and
career opportunities and developed a thriving business. Jeanette
has been encouraged to excel in her work by the sheer volume
of young people coming from Europe to embrace the vast range
of opportunities for travel and work in the UK. She discusses
Stages more widely and the uncertainty they currently face.
I started Stages in 2000 when I saw an increasing demand for a work experience
programme in the UK, but I had been otherwise involved in European initiatives as
early as 1996. Working as an exporter to the EU has been an exciting, challenging
and culturally enriching experience, and learning from other cultures and sharing
common values has been honestly inspirational.
Supportive at every level
Successfully managing a team has been one of my biggest challenges over the past
19 years. With the right training and the right people, however, everything has fallen
into place. Our staff know the work they are doing is important and understand
their responsibilities. An internal appraisal system enables us all to consider areas for
improvement, and we continually review our systems and processes to drive efficiency.
We employ a clear management structure to ensure that communication between
both staff and students remains straightforward and constant – there is even one
»Managing Director:
»Established in 2000
»Based in Brighton and Hove
»Services: Arranging unpaid
work experience programmes
for EU students
»No. of employees: 5
»We work closely with German
vocational colleges and other
European business schools and
manager handling our emergency
phone 24 hours a day.
We have an extensive selection of
values, which we outline in our mission
statement. They include:
»Creating an encouraging and
welcoming environment
»Supporting our customers by
listening and trying to solve
»Courtesy and patience
»Respecting diversity
»Building confidence
»Trust and honesty
»Working as a team
»Continuous improvement
Choosing the right situation
Our best practice starts with the
buying process. An honest description
of what students can expect is
important. Managing expectations
is always challenging – we spend a
lot of time communicating with our
students to ensure that we can deliver
according to their needs, and that they
are appropriately prepared for life in
the UK. This process includes:
»Sending detailed documents
outlining what to expect. These
describe cultural differences such as
British office culture and life in an
English home
»Skype interviewing to check
language proficiency
»Ensuring that CVs are representative
of the student’s skill set
»Obtaining police checks if
appropriate for the placement
We do not accept all students onto
the programme, only those who we
believe can be offered a placement
that suits their needs. This maintains
our high standards and reputation as a
quality provider.
Students are monitored and evaluated
throughout the process to ensure its
success. We find that most young
people we place become far more
confident in themselves, and far more
understanding of the workplace. This
serves as a great foundation for their
future work in UK industry.
Supply partnerships
Our two biggest supply partners are
placement companies and host families.
Maintaining a quality relationship with
these two is vital if we are to secure
repeat business. We select the former
based on the level of support we feel
they can offer the students. Their
line managers keep us informed of
any problems and a full and ongoing
evaluation takes place. Only the
most engaging and encouraging of
organisations areselected.
Building a trusting relationship with
our host families is also fundamental.
We have agreements in place that
guarantee our students receive
Police checks are a prerequisite
ahead of placement, and continual
monitoring and evaluation takes place Two European students on a
placement at Volks Railway
We employ a
structure to
ensure that
between both
staff and
students remains
and constant
Highlighting best practice
during their stay. After the placement,
families are awarded a star rating
based on student feedback, and if
we do not deem the standard to be
acceptable, the accommodation is
removed from our supplier list.
Beyond these two, we believe that
building a strong, long-term relationship
with our European partners is also of
paramount importance as they sell the
programme directly to our students.
We also collaborate directly with
German university vocational colleges,
supporting their apprenticeship
schemes, alongside other universities
and business schools across Europe.
Changing attitudes and the
Brexit deal
In managing an SME working closely
with other European countries,
we have naturally encountered a
host of challenges. Understanding
the business practices of different
nations is fundamental to our
continued success; we have found
that areas such as payment terms
and timescales for communication
vary wildly. Nonetheless, in the face
of such issues, we have continued to
There is one issue, however, that
cannot be so easily dealt with.
Ourability to continue as an
industry leader will be determined
by the outcome of the current
Brexit negotiations. Overseas work
and study programmes must be
allowed to continue if the UK is to
remain an attractive destination for
Without the right kind of deal with
the EU, our future will become
immeasurably difficult. We are
presently operating successfully, but
our terms and conditions have recently
been rewritten to include a huge
Brexit clause in the event of nodeal.
Financially, no deal or agreement with
regards to the customs Union and
single market would be a massive
issue. Tariffs, including VAT on work
and education programmes, are likely
to make all of our courses considerably
more expensive to sustain.
We’re also concerned about our work
with prospective students. Planning
for every eventuality when we’re so
dependent on Europe is incredibly
difficult. We must get this deal right.
Doing what we can, while we
Irrespective of the uncertainty
surrounding our future, we feel that
our work has added real value to the
many English language programmes
in the UK.
Many of our students remain in the
UK beyond their placements and
attend a British university. Many
continue to work in the UK, bringing
their skill and fostering understanding.
No matter what the next year may
hold for Stages, we remain dedicated
to providing the right opportunities
for our excellent students. Cross-
cultural exchange is so important if
international business is to continue
We find that
most young
people we
place become
far more
confident in
After continued success in her
placement, one of our German
students said: “If it wasn’t for
your support, I wouldn’t be a
pre-school English teacher now.
I decided to pursue my dream,
and am currently managing
classrooms of ten to 15 children
aged between three and five.
It’s unbelievable that I could do
this because of my volunteering
work at the school in Brighton
and my improved English.
Without your help, I wouldn’t
have grown so much and
enjoyed my time to the fullest.”
The Stages team

This article was sponsored by Stages. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister