How do you choose a good summer school for under 16s and do you pick a homestay or residential centre? Melanie Butler investigates
How good are UK summer schools? One way of knowing is to compare their scores to those of all the British-Council-accredited schools.
To check the scores of every school, something the Gazette does twice a year, we total all the areas of strength awarded to each school by the British Council inspectors and deduct any needs for improvement noted on the publishable statement.
On average, accredited language centres score 4.5, with the top 20 per cent scoring 8 areas of strength or more.
Remember that the average quality of British-Council-inspected schools is high by international standards. We estimate a score of between 5 and 7 is very good, while centres with 8 points or more can be classed as excellent.
The graph below shows the distribution of scores for summer homestays. The light blue lines show the 118 homestay programmes.
The mean score for the sector is 3.75, slightly below the national mean.
The dark blue lines show the residential centres. Their mean average is 6, higher than that industry overall. The boarding schools average 8.5 and the language course providers average 6.
However, 6 per cent of residential centres are currently under review by the British Council (see box) because they have failed in at least one area. Only one, or 0.5 per cent, of the homestay schools is under review.
We have ranked the residential and the homestay programmes separately. We have only ranked those that take under-16s, so there are no university-run courses or courses run by state colleges because they do not enrol younger learners.
The minimum age and the provider type are listed beside every centre.
The top residential school is run by a private language school, Wimbledon School of English, and several family-run private summer schools also do very well. Family-run schools are often great at creating communities, as you can see if you read the story of one of them on the last page of the magazine.
All our top family operators have strict nationality quotas and only take small groups.
Table 1: Homestay summer school ranking 2018
There are five ranking multi-centre specialists led by Discovery Summer and two boarding school- run multicentres.
Just one chain, British Study Centres, does well in residential.
Overall, the boarding schools are the best at residential programmes, but they are hugely popular, so book early. Most of the boarding schools in our rankings are already fully booked for Chinese students in 2018. All the top homestay programmes except King’s Oxford are run by private language schools. Chain schools do well with homestay but can be inconsistent, so check the reports of centres not listed here. Remember, host families are hard to find in famous destinations including Oxford, Cambridge and London, so the supply of great homestay programmes is low.
Most successful homestay programmes are in small historic towns, such as Chester and Norwich, or student cities like Newcastle and Bristol. This is because they are safe and there are lots of good host families.
Based on the British Council reports, the top destination for junior homestay is Devon. Very green, very safe and with the strictest regulation for families in the UK and, possibly, the world.
Table 2: Residential summer school ranking 2018