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How Safe Is Your School?

p22 Pic courtesy Martin Cooper

by Melanie Butler
One of the biggest concerns for the students and their families when choosing a language course is safety. Contrary to popular belief, the UK is actually an extremely safe country. For adult students, the main safety concern is crime. It is very difficult to compare violent crime across countries because the crimes are defined differently: in Sweden, for example, all prostitution is counted as rape. In England and Wales a crime against a person, rather than against their property, is a violent crime even if no physical violence was involved.

So, if someone grabs your handbag from your lap and runs off that is a violent crime, if they break into your car and steal it, it is not. The only measure of violent crime that works internationally is the murder rate, and on that the UK is ranked very low. UN statistics, based on the murder rate per 100,000 people, shows the UK is as safe as New Zealand, slightly safer than Australia and Ireland – while Canada is nearly twice as dangerous and the US murder rate is four times higher.

So where within the UK are the best schools to study at based on local crime rate? We turned to the research we did for ELgo, our consumer ranking site. Here we used the Global Peace Index, which uses its own measure of violent crime for all the countries it has scored, to check all the locations with accredited schools. ELgo groups locations in five bands, and we found eight British Council accredited schools for adults in the safest band which also come in in the top 100 in the EL Gazette UK ranking. Two more, which rank just below the top 100 but are in the safest areas, are added to the list. All but three of the listed centres for adults, the University of Chichester, Nab Cottage and Marcus Evans Linguarama Bath, also take under 18s. Nab Cottage, formerly home of the Romantic poet Coleridge, is the only adult school in a totally rural area. The rest are located in small towns or archetypal British cathedral cities, such as York and Chester, and Spa towns like Bath and Harrogate. They include not just private language schools, but also a Further Education College, Sussex Downs, a business English specialist, Accent International and a university. When it comes to under 18s, crime is not the only concern: child protection, student welfare, and health and safety are all vital Child protection measures were not introduced into British Council inspections until 2014 and around a third of all centres have not yet been inspected under them and have therefore been excluded from our list.

To draw up our top ten schools we drew up a long list of those schools in the safest areas of the UK who have been awarded an area of strength in Care of Under 18s since 2014. To narrow the list down, we then chose schools awarded strengths in all three other areas of welfare: care of students, accommodation and leisure activities. Unlike in the management and teaching lists, we did not count individual sub strengths. Nine out of the ten safest schools for under 18s are based in boarding schools in rural area, including the top school, a residential summer school run by Wimbledon school of English, which also tops our overall rankings. It includes four boarding school-run courses: St Edmund’s College, Bishopstrow College, Heathfield and Sherborne International. Three family run summer schools, Manor Courses, Absolutely English and International Students Club also made the cut. Only one multicentre is on the list: summer operator Exsportise, which has four centres all in very safe locations and, unlike other providers does not have any centres in large cities such as London, which would reduce its safety score. Only one nonresidential town-based provider, CES Harrogate, made the list.

Pic courtesy: Martin Cooper