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Iatefl 2018: Sussing out Sussex

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The beautiful coastal county of Sussex offers some of the best English language learning opportunities in the UK, writes Melanie Butler

This year’s Iatefl conference is based in Brighton, the largest town in the county of Sussex and one of the largest centres for English language teaching in the country.

So what does Sussex have to offer in terms of English teaching?

Sussex is at the top of the UK tables for sunshine and for safety. The south coast county, so close to London, is at the bottom of the table for violent crime in England and even the vibrant city of Brighton has crime levels more common in a small country town, according to the International Peace Index.

Safety is one reason, perhaps, that generations of British parents have sent their children to boarding schools in the country. The first British preparatory school catering exclusively to children under 13 was established here in 1837.

Sussex boasts a large number of independent schools, many nestling in the Sussex downs, the famous chalky hills that run south from the international airport at Gatwick and finish in the famous Seven Sister cliffs between Seaford and the peaceful, dignified seaside resort Eastbourne.

In the summer, Windlesham is home to a summer English centre run by neighbouring boarding school Bede’s, which runs a small chain of summer boarding courses.

Many of Sussex’s boarding schools are used in July and August by Britain’s summer school operators. Some are family-run operations like Manor Courses and CLAC, which have worked with the same boarding schools for two generations.

All the Sussex boarding schools enrol a healthy number of international students, but apart from Bede’s, only one other Sussex boarding school runs its own holiday language courses: Buckswood in the tiny village of Guestling near Hastings.

“Safety is one reason, perhaps, that generations of British parents have sent their children to boarding schools in the country ”

The first ‘plate glass’ university in Britain, the University of Sussex, was founded in 1961 just outside Brighton.

In the Times Higher top 200 ranking institutions, the university also scores highly for teaching excellence. It also does very well for research in language and linguistics and boasts an exceptional language centre.

The new University of Chichester, based in the county’s only cathedral city, also scores well at accreditation.

The top of the UK’s accredited language centres, based on British Council inspections, is down the road at the University of Brighton. The county also boasts the top accredited Further Education College, Sussex Downs, with centres in Eastbourne, Hastings and the delightful country town of Lewes.

It is one of a number of accredited state colleges in the area, including those in Brighton and Chichester.

Sussex has also always been one of the top destinations for language travel with language schools clustered around the county’s main seaside towns: Brighton, Eastbourne, Worthing and Hastings.

Founded in 1936, the Eastbourne School of English, now called the English Language Centre Eastbourne, is said to be the oldest English language school in the region.

It is owned and run by the same charitable trust as the English Language Centre Brighton, founded in1962, the top performing language school in the area.

Language travel has been an important revenue earner for Sussex for over 50 years and with this history comes an educational infrastructure which is second to none.

There is an army of trained, qualified English teachers who have chosen to settle in the area, a tradition of host families and great communications not only with London but to Sussex’s ‘own’ international airport at Gatwick.