Sunday, May 26, 2024

Do points mean prizes?

Who does best in chain-school rankings? Melanie Butler finds out

Who takes the prizes among the chains? Generally, the answer is top prizes go to schools with the highest number of areas of strength awarded on inspection. It’s not so simple when it comes to chains though – two other elements are critical for success: consistency and price point.

Consistency is measured by the distance between the lowest performing school and the highest one. In a smaller chain, with five schools or fewer, these should be clustered within a single standard deviation, which here is a 4.5 point range. Those with six schools or more can be allowed a little leeway.

On consistency, our top ranking small chain is ELC, a not-for-profit trust whose three schools score 13, 14 and15 points respectively. And our top ranking larger chain is EF, whose eight schools are ranged neatly at between seven and 12 points, but neither of these chains run accredited junior programmes, typically the weakest link in any chain.

All the five year-round schools run by EC, for example, score between 10 and 12, making them all Centres of Excellence and making EC the best performing top end international chain for students aged 16 and over. However, its junior summer operations, run under the Embassy brand, comes in below the mean average score on inspection.

When it comes to junior operations in year-round chains, two stand out: Bell among the small chains and Kings among the bigger ones. Although both have one lower scoring outlier, in neither case does this involve juniors. Both have expertise with under-16s: Bell has been teaching them for over 50 years, while Kings famously runs boarding schools. When it comes to teaching under-16s, stick with the high-scoring specialists.

What about price? High-ranking courses usually come with top-end prices. Our budget pick for excellent value is CES, which has all its schools neatly bunched together around the national mean average score of 5.5, with the majority scoring higher. Yet it’s website prices come in, depending on destination, at around £13-£15 per 60 minutes of teaching on a four-week course. Other well-known, but lower-scoring outfits have list prices as high as £17-£19 for the same style course in similar locations.

Finally comes this year’s fastest riser: Stafford House. All its year-round schools improved their scores in their last inspection, with London and Canterbury making it into our Centre of Excellence list, as did Brighton, now awaiting a spot check as a new part of Bayswater Colleges. Improving your inspection score in the middle of a pandemic – that’s a result!

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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