Thursday, May 30, 2024

It can pay to go mainstream

These educational institutions often attract the best teachers, says Melanie Butler

It’s fashionable in British EFL to view language schools as part of the hospitality industry and to prize student satisfaction over learning outcomes. However, the inspectors don’t appear to agree. The data shows that, when it comes to reliable quality, the sectors involved in mainstream education outperform the EFL specialists.

Why?

The category Teaching and Learning covers only five areas out of a possible 15. As long as schools meet the basic standards for these areas, they should be able to pile up enough areas of strength in the other categories, like Management or Premises and Resources, to become a Centre of Excellence.

As long as a school scores satisfactory in the area of Teaching and Learning, it’s perfectly possible to perform well. Our best-performing large chain, EF, scores no strengths for Classroom Observation or Academic Staff Profile in any of its eight schools. But all eight meet the satisfactory standard in both and they all score strengths in Academic Management and Course Design, which both promote the learning the inspectors want to see.

Mainstream educational institutions do well across Teaching and Learning. In state sector further education (FE), for example, half of all colleges are awarded an area of strength in Teaching and 20% score one for Academic Staff Profile. Worth keeping in mind is that mainstream education attracts more qualified and experienced teachers because it pays more.

High-performing centres do satisfactorily in all areas. No school in the Kaplan chain has been given a single Need for Improvement. They are also rarely given to mainstream education. No FE colleges has more Needs for Improvement than areas of strength, but 23 EFL-only operations do.

On average, mainstream providers perform better than EFL specialists. The mean average score of FE colleges, the least prestigious of the mainstream sectors, is 6.5 in areas of strength. For EFL specialists it’s 5. FE’s most common score is 7, for EFL this drops to 2.

Some EFL specialists are brilliant. The very top of our rankings is dominated by well-established language schools and summer school organisations, but private language schools also dominate the circa 10% of centres that score zero or lower on inspection.

If you’re choosing an accredited course at random and don’t know anything about it, go for a boarding school, a university or an FE college.

FE Centres of Excellence

  1. East Sussex (13)
  2. Perth, Guildford (11)
  3. Belfast, Chichester, Hilderstone, New College Durham, Nottingham (10)
  4. Cardiff and Vale, Itchen Sheffield (9)

Key The numbers given in brackets refer to net areas of strength awarded at inspection. All further education colleges admit over- 16s and are inspected on all 15 areas.

Image courtesy of PHOTO SHUTTERSTOCK
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