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EL quality analysis: All Systems ELgo!

British Council inspection reports will probably never top the ranks of international bestsellers. However, they are hugely popular among the EL Gazette editorial team – so much so that we have launched a new website based on their content. 

Our new website ELgo is a free online service that ranks all British-Council-accredited schools in the UK. We give each centre a quality score that we calculate from the number of strengths awarded in its inspection report minus any noted needs for improvements. The British Council scheme is the only one that covers all types of English language course providers – such as private language schools, universities and further education colleges – and its structured system of awarding strengths and noting needs for improvement lends itself easily to our penchant for rankings. 

ELgo is the product of over thirty years’ experience in the field of language travel, and its aim is to allow prospective students, their families and their teachers to easily find information that sometimes is difficult to locate online. Imagine a clear, concise summary made out of a pile of tomes – because our reading list doesn’t end with British Council inspection reports. For each language centre we provide information about its courses, age range, child safeguarding standards, class size, top nationalities, accommodation and price per 20-hour-a-week course. On top of that, we link each centre to its location, providing information about the destination itself and how safe it is. Users are able to organise a whole study holiday, with the added bonus of finding out everything they need to know about the real quality of their chosen institution. Here is a round-up of the three main information categories on ELgo besides quality, and how we investigated them. Child safeguarding: In our new system of child safeguarding, which will be updated soon, we will look into three areas: police checks of staff and main carer of host families, safe recruitment procedures, and safeguarding training. There are many accreditation bodies and government schemes that inspect language course providers for child safeguarding in the UK.

To check the child safeguarding level of each centre, we read inspection reports from the British Council, which introduced compulsory police checking in January 2014, ISI Educational Oversight, Ofsted, the Independent Schools Inspectorate, Estyn for Wales and Education Scotland. According to the type of child safeguarding procedures implemented and how effective they are according to inspections, we give centres between one and three shields. Boarding schools are assigned a fourth shield as they have to abide by the national minimum standards for boarding schools, which prescribe much stricter rules. Destination safety: The UK, as we discussed in the MayGazette, is often wrongly regarded as a dangerous country. Data can debunk the doubts, and for this reason we used a very comprehensive source of information: the Global Peace Index, a study carried out by the Institute of Economics and Peace based on 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators, including violent crime, homicides and terrorism impact. The UK shows a great variation. The least peaceful area is, unsurprisingly, London, but the report points out that ‘London is relatively peaceful in comparison to other major cities worldwide.’ On ELgo we use ticks to display this data – five ticks indicate the most peaceful destinations, one tick the least. Price: We already knew that high quality doesn’t necessarily mean high price.

On ELgo users can discover this for themselves by filtering their search according to their selected price range (in euro symbols) and quality (in stars). Collecting price data took a while. We had a team of mystery shoppers calling centres and desk researchers checking prices online, but still sometimes couldn’t find what we were looking for. We’re still working on this, and hopefully filling the few gaps soon. Euro symbols on a school’s profile indicate the price per hour, calculated from price per week and other fees, and divided by time actually spent in class – to the minute. The price per week displayed is representative of roughly a 20-hour-per-week general English course.