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HomeApril 2023Issue 484Are Boarding Schools always better?

Are Boarding Schools always better?

Melanie Butler digs into the history behind the sectors success

The number of British Boarding Schools choosing to be accredited by the British Council has been growing steadily in recent years. I say choosing, because all boarding schools in Britain have to be inspected – either by the State run Ofsted scheme or by the specialist Independent School Inspectorate. So they don’t need the BC scheme at all.

Covid has made very little difference to this sector; one BC accredited boarding school closed though at least two left the scheme – two more have joined but neither currently run summer schools. Compared to the closure of over 25 per cent of year round private language schools, the boarding school sector has escaped relatively unscathed.

The boarding school sector does extraordinarily well on inspection with an average score of 8.5/15 areas of strength awarded, slightly ahead of the score of the universities.

But it would be untrue to say that Boarding schools have it all their own way. Here is a list of the top 3 per cent of language centres in Britain – the summer centres are marked in red:

Top Centres 2023

Perfect ScoreELC Bristol, English Language Centre Brighton, English Language Centre Eastbourne, London school of English, LSI Portsmouth, SBC, Wimbledon School of English
14/15Bell International Cambridge, Bell Young Learners Multicentres, Broadstairs English Centre, Discovery Summer, English in Chester
13/14University of Manchester

Plenty of Junior Summer providers – none of them owned or run by boarding schools.

And here are the top boarding school-run summer centre providers:

Top Boarding Schools 2023

13/15Bishopstrow College, Millfield
12/15Heathfield International Summer School
11/15Concord College, Harrow School, Sherborne International
10/15Bede’s Summer school, King’s Summer, St Clare’s Oxford, St Edmund’s College, Stonyhurst

The main difference between the two sectors is that the boarding school, of whom there are now 22 running English Language summer schools, are very consistent. As this list shows half of the 22 school boarding summers operations make it into our rankings.

Overall boarding schools obtain an average score of 8.5. The lowest scoring boarding school score is 3. Three is also the most common score for other summer schools.

What is the secret of their success? They have all specialised in young learners for a very long time, since 1550 in the case of Sherborne and 1568 for St Edmund’s.

The high-performing language school operations also tend to be long-established – Bell has been running summer schools for 50 years, English in Chester for 47. Good summer language schools tend to be specialised in young learners – SBC is owned by a group of independent language schools, Exsportise grew out of sports programmes run by professional coaches in independent schools.

Good boarding schools are lead by great founders. Jane Merrick, at Discovery Summer for example has the same vision and strength of spirit as the fearsome founder of my own Alma Mater – Anne Dreydel of St Clare’s, Oxford.

And as for the late Frank Bell he created not one but two of the organisations on this list: both Bell Young Learners but also Concord College which he bought as a Language School and is now one of the highest performing independent colleges in the country and owned quite separately from the language schools.

So the best of the summer schools can – and do – take on the boarding schools at their own game, though it is far from an easy thing to do.

On average, though, boarding schools do better – partly it’s down to economics. If you already own the building, you don’t have to pay yourself rent and can afford to pay your summer staff more, increasingly important in an era of teacher shortages.

Most boarding schools are not for profit educational trusts. Their summer schools though are run for profit, money for a war chest they are building against future government plans to increase their taxes. There will be more boarding schools coming into the UK Summer School market.

Most of them will be – on average- better than you average language school summer school. If you know nothing about a summer school except who owns it then -despite the fact that they can be beaten by the very best EFL outfits – choose the one run by a boarding school.

Image courtesy of COPYRIGHT PEXELS.COM
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