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Agents play the name game

Melanie Butler and Vasana Gorner investigate the problems Spanish parents might face when agents ‘white label’ junior summer school courses

Every year thousands of Spanish parents watch as their children file though passport control with a group of their peers and a teacher and climb aboard a plane on the way to a language school whose name the parents do not know. The agent’s website features some pictures of a beach, a description of the town and a pdf of a Google map with a red marker which reveals, when you click on it, that this of the location of the ‘English language school’.

Small wonder then that thousands more choose instead to send their child to a famous boarding school whose name they do know and which they can google. This agent’s website describes it in terms such as ‘one of the most prestigious in the United Kingdom’, while extolling its ‘Harry-Potter-style buildings’ and ‘excellent academic results’. What the website doesn’t always make clear is that the course is not run by the prestigious school, but instead by an unaccredited language school organisation which is not covered by national legislation for the prevention of child abuse.

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From resorts to ancient ruins

Melanie Butler takes a trip through England’s South West to discover what makes the picturesque and historic region a perfect language study destination

The South West of England has long been a favourite holiday destination of the British and offers a picture-postcard vision of Britain: ancient ruins, seaside resorts, historic market towns, cathedral cities – and of course the famous cream teas. Officially starting where Bournemouth ends, the region encompasses five counties – Wiltshire, Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and Somerset. So let’s explore the region, visiting all the locations of English UK South West member schools, to discover why Brits love it so much.

Driving due north from Bournemouth, we first come to the cathedral town of Salisbury – a hop, skip and a jump from the ancient monument of Stonehenge – well known for its street markets, arts centres and charming individual shops. One of the most famous tourist attractions in the area is Longleat, a stately home and safari park just outside the historic market town of Warminster, in the Wylie Valley, an area of outstanding natural beauty. To the south-west, in the county of Dorset, lies Sherborne, one of Britain’s most beautiful medieval towns, with its ancient abbey, two castles and cluster of historic schools.

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Open the door to Ecuador

Jenny Mill urges teachers not to overlook the considerable charms and opportunities in the lesser-known neighbour of Colombia and Peru

Ecuador may be dwarfed by its larger and better-known neighbours Colombia and Peru, but for Tefl teachers considering a move to Latin America it has much to offer: Andean mountain peaks, tropical rainforest, colonial cities and palm-fringed beaches, not to mention a booming demand for English teachers.

Lourdes Machado is an Ecuadorian national with a masters in Tefl who has been teaching English in the country for eighteen years. She now works at two universities in the country’s biggest city, Guayaquil. ‘The demand for English teachers is constantly increasing, especially in three of the main Ecuadorian cities: the capital Quito, the main commercial port, Guayaquil, and Cuenca, a beautiful city in the highlands,’ she explains. ‘For instance, the university where I work has doubled the number of students in its English language programme in the last two years. The same is happening in schools, high schools and language institutes because parents want their children and teenagers to learn English.’

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The lure of leafy London’s hidden ‘village schools’

Melanie Butler looks beyond the better-known districts in the centre of the capital to the jewels scattered around its edges


There are 28 EL Gazette Centres of Excellence in London – that is over a quarter of all the 108 British-Council-accredited providers in the capital. By comparison there are three in Edinburgh, two in Manchester and only one in Bournemouth, albeit the almost unbeatable Beet.

The top school in London, Wimbledon School of English, goes one better – fifteen points out of a possible fifteen, the first school in the UK to receive that score. Wimbledon typifies many of the great London schools: it is long-established – fifty years old this year – and located in one of the leafy ‘London villages’ beloved of the British haute bourgeoisie. They boast beautiful parks, original shops, friendly cafes and some of the best host families anywhere.

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Hunting down the real deal

Melanie Butler plots quality against price, and discovers that you don’t need to break the bank to study at a good UK language school

It’s all very well for the Gazette to print a list of the top 10 per cent of schools based on British Council inspections, as some have written to point out, but a lot of students, or their parents, simply can’t afford them. What about the schools which offer good deals – above-average results at below-average prices?

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