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Academic excellence comes at a cost

Melanie Butler finds great CLIL summer courses, but choose with care

The demand from the CLIL countries is clear: they want summer courses with Content and Language Integrated Learning. And they want them taught by subject specialists, preferably with experience of L2 students.

Stefania Bresquar, of the Italian agents’ association IALCA, put it at a recent road show run by Language Cert: “We want physics taught in English by people who know about physics.”

This is ‘hard’ CLIL, an approach where subject specialists, trained to work with L2 children, deliver content in English while supporting language acquisition.

The main place to find such teachers in the UK is in independent boarding schools.

The international study centres, like Bishopstrow College and Sherborne International, which prepare children to join boarding schools, generally use their own staff to run the same hard-CLIL courses in the summer.

Other boarding schools bring in specialist summer teachers. Concord International, for example, employs residential specialist teachers for Maths, Science and Economics in the summer. St Clare’s Oxford recruits extra non-residential teachers and visiting experts for its summer courses in Science, Business and Art and Design.

Private sector EFL, at least in the residential sector, simply can’t afford this.

UK specialist teachers work a 50-60 hour week, including all duties and preparation time, for which they earn £1,000 a week once the 35 per cent additional holiday pay is factored in.

An EFL summer teacher, by contrast, typically works around 50-55 hours a week, including all duties, but excluding any preparation time. They typically earn just under £500 a working week, including 12 per cent holiday pay, but before the government accommodation offset of £52.82 is deducted. Such rates can easily fall below minimum wage (see box).

“Soft CLIL is a good way to improve academic language skills rather 
than subject knowledge.”

Yet with student fees around £1,000 a week, surely there’s enough money for physics teachers?

Not in the private sector. Of that £1,000 fee, the agent will typically get 40 per cent. Between 25 and 40 per cent goes to the venue, for board and lodging for students and staff. That leaves £200-£350 a week to cover teaching, activities, day trips, 24-hour pastoral care and more.

Boarding schools don’t have a problem. They pay agents a maximum of 20 per cent and, as long as they own the venue, the other 80 per cent goes to them

Which is not to say private providers don’t offer effective academic courses.

Some top providers use specialist subject teachers with EFL qualifications, which is the kind of hard CLIL agents say they want.

Others use visiting university postgrads to deliver lectures or lab sessions. This approach is known as ‘English as a Medium of Instruction’. It can work well on pre-university programmes with B2 level students, but may be less effective with low-level learners or under-16s.

A few use EFL teachers with a degree in the relevant academic subject, to run hands-on courses or workshops. This approach is known as soft CLIL and is a good way to improve academic language skills rather than subject knowledge.

Non-residential summer schools could easily run hard CLIL courses because venue costs are much lower. But they are very rare.

Emerald Cultural Institute in Ireland has an English and STEM course. Students do 10 hours a week in the language school and ten hours a week studying science at Trinity College Dublin’s Trinity Walton Club.

And the cost? About £1,000 a week if you include £180 for the host family.

Image courtesy of St. Clare's Oxford
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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