Melanie Butler analyses the trends revealed by this year’s new entrants
Congratulations to the twenty centres which have achieved Centre of Excellence status this year. As well as two universities, Central Lancashire and Manchester Metropolitan, the list includes two boarding schools, Sherborne International and Buckswood, two summer school organisation, International Quest and Lewis Juniors, and two further education colleges, Milton Keynes and Westminster Kingsway. The last two members of TEN made it in, Torquay International and the Eastbourne School of English, as did the London School of English branch in Canterbury and two other venerable institutions, Anglolang and Studio Cambridge.
The chains also continued their inexorable advance: EF in both Oxford and Bournemouth, British Study Centres Brighton, Stafford House Canterbury and EC Manchester. LSI Hampstead joined its Central London sister school, while Irish-owned CES made its long-awaited entrance with its Oxford school.
However, while twenty centres came into the ranking, eleven dropped out, meaning that the overall numbers of ranked schools rose by around 6 per cent. Interestingly, only three former Centres of Excellence left the rankings because their scores fell, three closed for business and one left the scheme. The other four have all been placed under review by the British Council for failing to meet the standards in care of under-18s. More proof, if it were needed, that even the best schools can find the new safeguarding standards challenging.
These examples of a sudden fall from grace may seem to call into question the reliability of Council inspections, although educationalists in the UK would tell you otherwise. Any change in standards will result in an increase in failures regardless of the quality of the school. This seems especially to be true when the changes are in regards to child protection. When the National Minimum Standards for boarding schools were upgraded in 2014, the percentage of boarding schools failing to meet them shot up to nearly one in six.
Apart from changes in regulations, the main causes of a decline in results at inspection are, according to educational analysts, a change in management structure or ownership and a high turnover of key staff, especially classroom teachers. A quick analysis of centres whose scores have fallen dramatically in the British Council system reveals the causes are the same.