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Welfare is key for under-16s

Ron Ragsdale explains how we rank the schools for young learners using bonus points for student welfare

Young-learner specialists now make up some 30 per cent of all accredited centres in the UK, and with many language centres catering primarily for adults finding it difficult or impossible to stay afloat because of the Covid-19 downturn, the proportion catering for young learners is steadily increasing. This trend can only continue.

By language centres for young learners we do not, of course, mean that all of them only teach under-16s. Four of the top centres for under-16s are also EL Gazette Centres of Excellence for adults: Sidmouth International School, St Giles Highgate, St Clare’s Oxford and IH London, and more centres are moving in this direction every year.

An increasing number of adult language schools also offer courses to under-16s. However, in this ranking we only include centres which had a majority, or significant minority, of under-16s enrolled at the time of their last inspection.

Because the British Council summary statements of inspections list a maximum of 15 areas of strength, our usual ranking system does not differentiate within percentile bands, so there is an obvious need to differentiate between centres with the same overall score.

Thirty-three accredited language centres which focus on under-16s now receive an area of strength in more than half of the 15 areas under which they are inspected. That means that the top 25 per cent of YL centres are squashed into just six bands. So how can we tell them apart?

In this issue, we have created separate rankings for year-round young learner specialists, summer schools and boarding schools, including those that are in the top 50 per cent of all accredited centres.

However, in order to differentiate between schools that are ranked in the same percentiles, this analysis focuses on the main area in which provision for under-16s differs from that of adults: the level of Safeguarding of Under-18s and the three areas under Welfare and Student Services. We have also looked at the area of Premises and Facilities, which impacts on student well-being.

We have weighted the scores by assigning a maximum of six bonus points for the criteria covered under these headings.

Differences in bonus points are used to show slight differences under these categories and do not affect the overall percentile ranking score of each centre. The bonus points differentiate within a percentile band.

We then checked the full reports for the areas completed by the inspectors under the relevant headings, as in the example below. The bonus points are based on the number of individual criteria marked as a strength on the British Council report in the areas we have put under the spotlight, as well as one bonus point for getting strengths in each of these areas in the summary statement.

A strength is deducted for any criterion in a given area which is judged as Not met. The British Council place particular emphasis on the importance of meeting every criteria, and one judgement of Not met means an area of strength will not be awarded by the inspectors in the summary statement.

Then we adjust the scores to the same baseline values, because if any of the individual criteria in one area are not applicable to one centre, it would have a lower possible maximum than the others.

Also, the number of criteria in a given area may vary from year-to-year. For example, in 2017 there were four criteria in the area of Leisure opportunities, but by 2019 that had risen to five.

To iron-out statistical differences, we calculated all results as a percentage of available criteria for each area reported, across the same base number. This does not entirely eliminate the statistical discrepancy, but differences of less than 0.2 are unlikely to be significant.

Reading the reports

You can see how the system works by looking at the extract from a 2017 report on this page. There are eight criteria in this area, but two are marked N/a under strength, which means a strength cannot be marked.

In this example, a strength is marked for three out of the six applicable areas, which is fifty per cent. This means it is eligible to be awarded an area of strength in the summary statement. However, one criteria is marked Not met, so a point is deducted from the strengths in this area, giving a net of 2 out of 6.

Images courtesy of SHUTTERSTOCK and Library
Ron Ragsdale
Ron Ragsdale
Ron was formerly Managing Editor of the EL Gazette. He gained his MA-TESOL at Portland State University in Oregon over 25 years ago, and has worked in ELT publishing ever since, with teaching stints in Istanbul and Cairo. In addition to managing teams at Pearson and Cambridge ELT, including as Publishing Director, Ron has worked with Ministries and local partners in over 30 countries.

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