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Welfare is the watchword for Sidmouth

For over forty years, the team at Sidmouth International School have put children’s welfare first, they tell Melanie Butler

Founded in 1976 by the Dumenil family, Sidmouth International School has long provided specialist young learners’ courses year-round. Indeed, it not only has specialist courses, it has three specialist centres, one for under-14s and one for teenagers, housed in different buildings in this delightful Devon resort, where it also runs an adult school.

Not only did the Sidmouth team pioneer year-round courses for young learners, they were early champions of child welfare. Jane Dumenil worked closely with the local authority for many years ensuring that the school had access to the government Social Services specialist support and advice in all areas of welfare including homestay recruitment.

The Dumenils and the entire team at Sidmouth International School put student welfare at the heart of everything they do.

“The welfare of children and young people is of paramount importance to us and indeed their parents and carers too,” teacher Gary Gates tells me. “Parents entrust their children to us, and we take that duty of care very seriously.”

General Manager Diahann Byrne agrees: “Parents and guardians need to be assured we are absolutely focused on proper processes, procedures and responsibilities in place for the care of their children.”

Diahann places, “enormous value on the excellent service provided by our host family community,” and sees them as a core component of the school’s success.

“Our families work in partnership with the school to safeguard our students and continue the overall cultural experience in the home,” she says. “All our families know they can rely on us to provide support and guidance at all times.”

What then is the advice the team would give to a parent looking for a language school for their two children, one age ten, the other 14? For Wendy Moores, head of young learners’ courses at the school, ensuring the school has an experienced teaching team is vital.

In addition, her advice would be to focus on selecting a safe location that has good central facilities local to student accommodation and the school.”

Somewhere with a beach, and perhaps, “parks, cinema and small local shops where students can be immersed in local culture.”

Once again, safety is important. “I would emphasise a safe location, ideally a small town with a strong local community.”

A location, in other words, a lot like the charming Devon resort of Sidmouth.

Sidmouth International School has long been an EL Gazette Centre of Excellence but, as we can see from the ranking on page 21, what sets it apart from other schools is its exceptional scores not just on student welfare and care of under-18s, but accommodation, school environment and leisure programmes.

Overall, on these areas, Sidmouth International School has the highest scores on child welfare of all the year-round providers. What is the secret of their success?

“Prioritising their welfare contributes significantly to their success in 
the classroom. It is a win-win.”

“We have an experienced team,” says Diahann, giving the management perspective. “We understand what measures are necessary to keep children safe and happy. We know how to translate those requirements into practice through rigorous policies and procedures to ensure we meet the high standards parents and guardians rightly expect.”

For Diahann, the feedback from the inspectors is important, “as well as continuous feedback from staff, students, hosts and the local community, all of which informs our continual process of improvement.”

“We care,” Gary chips in and gives the teachers’ viewpoint. “A child who feels safe, secure, and content with a good sense of well-being also tends to work better in the classroom.”

“Prioritising their welfare also contributes significantly to their success in the classroom. It is a win-win situation.”

Everything they do as a school is predicated on the safety and well-being of the child: the location, the host family community, the management systems, the approach to teaching and learning. A secure child is a content child and a content child will learn.

For the team at Sidmouth International School, their inspection results just reflect what they do, what they have done for many years.

“That we continually achieve high scores is testimony to our commitment to child welfare,” says Diahann. “We are an open and passionate team.”

Sidmouth General Manager Diahann Byrne
Images courtesy of Alison Day, SIDMOUTH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL 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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