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Top centres more likely to survive Covid

Melanie Butler analyses the rankings and finds our top 100 are weathering the pandemic well

The main difference in this year’s ranking is not the number of new entrants in the top 100, but the number whose names have disappeared from the list of accredited centres during the pandemic. A total of 11 centres no longer have accreditation, just under 9% of the 2020 total and well below the 15% drop in number among accredited language centres as a whole.

Overall language centres that score highly on their British Council inspections seem more likely to survive, which is good news. While the private language schools have been badly hit this year, only a very small percentage of those in the top 100 have been affected and none at all in the top 5% of our ranking. Only three year-round language schools and one chain-owned summer operation have disappeared from our list, though. Sadly, all but one, which is currently teaching online, have ceased to trade.

However, the list of EL Gazette Centres of Excellence which are no longer accredited includes three universities and two boarding schools: the two highest performing sectors, as we report on pages 22 to 25. None of these, unsurprisingly, have closed for business and neither has the one further education college which no longer appears. These are all sectors which are already accredited as educational institutions and have simply opted out of British Council inspections.

But while the boarding school sector has been growing in recent years, and at least one more is waiting to be accredited, numbers among universities appear to be in slow decline. Fifteen percent of the universities previously in the accreditation scheme have dropped out in the past year, most likely as a result of Covid cutbacks, but perhaps influenced, as we argue on page 22, by the mismatch between the methodology demanded by the inspectors and the skills and language knowledge required by international schools being prepared for their degree course.

The good news from the university sector, reported on page 24, is that in one region of the UK, the north of England, there is a cluster of universities which, despite the loss of two of their number, continue to dominate the inspection results in their sector. Could this cluster of excellence be helped by the long collaboration with other English language sectors in their region? In a further exploration of the cluster of excellence idea, on page 26 we look at how it would play out for another university offering: Master’s courses for teachers, not a sector we can easily rank ourselves, though there is plenty of evidence from other sources. And here we find a cluster in the Midlands, both East and West, which has surprisingly few language schools though a fair few accredited state colleges.

Finally, talking of clusters of excellence, many of the chain schools show a pattern of consistently high accreditation results. While the top scores still belong to the three UK schools owned and operated by The English Language Centre Brighton, among the larger international players, EC has taken top spot. Turn to page 21 to find out how the others have done.

Image courtesy of 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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