Melanie Butler writes
Giving the boarding schools a run for their money in terms of British Council inspection results are the small family-run young learners specialists, both those providing year-round junior courses and the small residential summer school operators.
Although increasing numbers of chains and adult language schools are offering EFL courses for closed groups of juniors, inspection results show that the best options are to be found in family-run schools with years of experience in the junior market in safe, family-oriented locations. For year-round provision, two locations stand out in terms of Centres of Excellence. First Devon, home to Sidmouth International School and Globe English, where schools also enjoys a special relationship with local social services, who vet all host families. The other strong location is in the north: Yorkshire, more particularly North Yorkshire, with Melton College in the ancient city of York and Scarborough International on the coast both EL Gazette Centres of Excellence.
Residential summer specialists tend to have worked closely with the same boarding schools for years. The Barnard family at Manor Courses, one of our newest Centres of Excellence with ten strengths, are the third generation of their family to be in the business, and their relationship with Hurstpierpoint College stretches back years – as does the relationship between Haileybury and Jill Cutting of International Student Club. Chris and Sarah Etchells, leading lights of the English UK young learners group, have recently expanded to two boarding centres but retain their policy of using parents of former parents to promote them instead of agents.
Once again, when it comes to young learner provision it is the well-established specialists who do best, whether the ancient boarding schools, the families who have worked with them to run summer schools or the classic stand-alone family-run language school which has specialised in running year-round young learner programmes for many years. The simple fact of the matter is that just because you do well at teaching adults, it doesn’t mean you can run great courses for school kids. They are a different market, they need different methods and it can take years of practice to get it right.