Melanie Butler explains how the EL Gazette’s Centres of Excellence listings have reached a milestone with a new consumer-based website
This issue of the Gazette marks two significant events in the life of our rankings. For the first time the results will be available in four languages online on our new consumer website www.el-go.com. It is also the last time that some results will appear using the format of the old British Council inspections scheme by which schools were awarded points of excellence rather than areas of strength. The last three Centres of Excellence under the old system appear alongside this article in a blue box. The Centres of Excellence inspected under the new system appear below and on the following four pages in pink boxes.
A number of differences have emerged with the introduction of the new system. For example, under the old system 40 per cent of schools received no points of excellence, of which around 10 per cent were listed as having points for improvement. Nowadays only 11 per cent are ‘plain vanilla’ schools given no areas of strength and no needs for improvement. If we include centres which score zero or below once their weaknesses have been deducted, the figure rises to just below 25 per cent, including approximately 4 per cent of centres whose accreditation is currently under review.
The good news is that more schools are awarded an area of strength in the present system and more schools are gaining more strengths. As a rule of thumb, an excellence in the old system is equivalent to 1.5 strengths. However, where there were only 13 per cent of centres with five points or more under the old system there are over 20 per cent under the new.
One reason is that the new system is much easier to understand – if you are awarded a strength in the majority of sub-criteria in any area you will get an area of strength. This system is far more user-friendly than the old, under which you could be awarded aspects of criteria.
Another reason for the improvement in scores may simply be that they are being published. The Gazette has been publishing the results of the publishable statements, or summary statements as they are now known, for at least seven years. The British Council has been putting full reports into the public domain since 2013. According to the economist Tim Harford, research shows that putting results in the public domain always tends to improve them. It is pressure from clients and competitors which forces standards up.
Brighton grabs most of the glory in our fastest risers, with the English Language Centres, St Giles and the University all steaming up the rankings – but pipped at the post by Nile in Norwich, which is now in joint second position nationally with 14 points out of 15.
Meanwhile an analysis of the new entrants to our Centres of Excellence reveals more chain schools doing well, with EC, EF, British Study Centres, Stafford House and Kings all recording new entrants, and Irish-based family group Centre of English Studies making its debut. With Torquay International and the Eastbourne School of English both becoming Centres of Excellence, all the member schools of Ten, the Gazette’s top association, are now featured.
Congratulations to everybody here, and check out their entries on www.el-go.com