By Barry McDonald
Summer schools in the UK offer students not just an academic head start, but a life changing experience and a chance to vastly improve their English skills. From the Highlands of Scotland to the south coast of England, there are residential schools to suit all needs.
As well as improving their verbal and written English they can improve on a range of academic skills and integrate with children from around the globe. And in a world where social media rules, these are friendships and links that can last a lifetime.
One of the primary social benefits of attending a summer school is that it enables students to make new friends from around the world. The small tuition groups and residential nature of a summer school allow students to mix both inside and outside the classroom.
Student care is also of prime importance to parents sending their child hundreds of miles away for the summer. Nick Barnard, Managing Director of Manor Courses, puts pastoral care at the heart of the summer school experience. Based at Hurst College in the heart of the Sussex Countryside, Manor Courses have been welcoming children between the ages of eight and 17 since 1970 and pride themselves on creating a warm, safe and friendly family environment. “All our staff members are in residence in the same house and provide 24 hour supervision and pastoral care to the students,” says Nick. “In addition to the English teachers and activity leaders we have a residential team which consists of two people per house. And because all the directors are parents ourselves and in residence, it creates a genuinely warm family atmosphere.” Manor even boasts an on-site psychotherapist to help with children who may be feeling homesick or worried.
A family run organisation, Manor was founded in 1970 by Nick’s grandmother. Maintaining the family atmosphere remains an important aspect of the summer school, he says. “My brother, sister and I are the current directors and the third generation of our family to continue looking after young international students in a residential environment.
The directors and our young families are in residence at the summer school to provide the students, parents and teachers with 24 hour support and guidance.”
Summer schools offer students both English language development and an enriching experience that will last a lifetime. At Manor, they also benefit from an English cultural experience living in a traditional English boarding school and can visit some of England’s most famous cultural destinations, including London, Oxford, Cambridge and Canterbury. “Students also enjoy a diverse range of activities from traditional sports and arts and crafts to music and theatre,” adds Nick Barnard.
Several hundred miles further north, the cultural experience is distinctly more Scottish at the International Summer School for Teens. Based at the picturesque campus of the University of Stirling, the school is exclusively for students aged 12 to 17, offering a safe, fun and challenging international learning environment.
Director Carey Rowe reiterates the importance of student care, citing the safe environment of the University campus. “It’s a very safe location in the university of Stirling,” she says. “And every direction you turn is steeped in history, with the nearby Stirling Castle and Wallace Monument.
“The whole point of the programme is about preparing them for the future: preparing them for university and helping them to make decisions as they go forward with their lives. We give them glimpses of different classes.”
Students with sporting prowess are ideally placed to learn golf in the home of the sport or improve their tennis game on the same courts where Andy Murray learned to play.
“It’s about keeping them engaged throughout the summer, be that in creative activities, sporting activities and/ or academic activities,” adds Carey.
“The students come from all over the world and we are creating an international experience for students. It helps them to build their confidence, youth leadership skills and also their communication skills.
“The world is changing every day and problems they will face in the future will be global problems that require global solutions. Our goal is to get them communicating to break down culture barriers and realise we are all the same and they can build friendships that will last beyond the three weeks they spend with us.”
Integrating with fellow students from overseas is a key benefit to any summer school, adds Nick Barnard. “Students meet others from all around the world. They’ll come into an environment where English in the common language but they will be practising that with students from around the world, which opens up horizons and ideas – and enables them to make friends for life with a wider range of students.”