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Revolutionary summer curriculum needs great teachers, say founders

Summer school stars Steve Wood, previously with Bede’s, and Bram van Asselt, of Exsportise, have joined forces to launch a new group of summer schools which will use a specially-designed learning curriculum, carefully adapted to follow the cognitive development of the child from the age of 6 up to 18.

Demand in the summer market has been moving away from traditional ‘English and activity’ programmes. However, course providers, often dependent on inexperienced and underqualified teachers willing to work long hours, have struggled to deliver educational quality.

By contrast, Wood, who comes from the boarding school sector, and van Asselt, a renowned sports coach, recognise the importance of recruiting the right staff. “The quality of our teachers and our teaching will be of primary importance,” they told the Gazette.

British Summer School, as the new brand is called, will use the OECD’s Framework for 21st Century Skills as the content-led element of a five-level programme, which also includes language classes and a learning technology element. Students will be encouraged to come back year after year to complete the curriculum.

Elements of this approach appear in other courses, but British Summer School is the first to use a developmental approach, where different age groups focus on different skills taught in different teaching centres using different age-appropriate methodologies.

“It goes without saying that the syllabus for each course is adapted and optimised to the age range of the students,” Wood told the Gazette. “For example, the syllabus for our Creatives of the future course is much more task- based, to be compatible with how younger children best learn – by playing, making and building.”

British Summer School will offer its courses at five levels, based on age group. At each level, students will be placed in class groups based on age and language level and will stay in the same group for all three curriculum areas: Core English “based around an established, more traditional, learning syllabus”; Learning & Innovation, which uses a task- based approach to using digital media; and a Focus class, which concentrates on different skill areas at each level.

The curriculum will be delivered by EFL teachers, with specialist subject teachers for some academic subjects. Great teachers are a must for such a complex, innovative approach, but Bram and Steve, with fifty years’ experience in the business between them, are confident they can attract them.

“We already have a core of established, quality teachers available through our respective contacts,” they told the Gazette. “We will build and develop this core over time by encouraging the right teachers to return to us each year and grow with the whole five-course programme,” they promise.

The offer they are making to their teachers has the attention to detail that marks out their approach to course design. Teachers joining British Summer School can opt for contracts with either a six-day week or a five-day option with a full weekend off.

“Our teachers will not be employed – or expected – to support the leisure and sports programmes or manage the cultural and entertainment activities on top of their teaching roles,” Steve Wood says.

This emphasis on teaching quality and team building is the tradition at Exsportise, where van Asselt, himself a former professional hockey player, has built up a team of professional sports coaches and experienced language teachers who return year after year. “We will create the same shared approach and culture at British Summer School,” he says.

British Summer School staff will also be specially trained to deliver the True Me course – a series of active, sociable and competitive ‘challenges’ devised by an external specialist who has collaborated with van Asselt at Exsportise over many years. “The purpose of our bespoke programme is to increase students’ levels of confidence and build their sense of authenticity,” he told the Gazette.

While the traditional vacation course is designed to be an enjoyable summer experience, British Summer School, which will also have an online programme, has been designed to build a long-term, deep relationship and learning experience between the school, the staff and the student body.

Images courtesy of EXSPORTISE and Library
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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