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High-end ELT summer schools eye untapped cohort

Some summer schools are beginning to offer higher-end, more tailored models because demand is shifting “away” from only offering English language teaching, said one provider.

Junior programs in general were heavily impacted by the Covid pandemic. Photo: Pexels

The only caveat is the price range for these programs - which are essentially only open to a certain cohort of students

The head of the new EC Global Achievers Academy explained that potential pupils are simply asking for more.

“What we’re finding is that we’re getting a lot of students coming through with requests of a much higher level [of English],” Niall Greaves told The PIE News.

EC English, having been a mainstay in the sector for some time, has language schools in the UK, US, Canada, Malta and South Africa, and also hosts juniors in the former four countries through its Embassy Summer program.

EC’s Global Achievers Academy, open to 13-17 year olds from across the globe, is a totally different animal – and shies away from the usual language teaching model, Greaves stressed.

“Most of those applying for this course are B2+ level [by CEFR standards]. The traditional language summer camp is not for them.

“It’s specifically designed to give students the skills they need to be global citizens and the leaders of tomorrow,” he said.

The aim is to offer students a comprehensive experience, with more tailored extracurriculars and an emphasis less on the English language skills they likely already have, and more on how to develop skills that may serve them well at university and beyond.

And it isn’t the first provider to venture into the higher-end, more tailored space.

Oxford Royale, an exclusive summer program chiefly hosted at the University of Oxford with stints at Ivy League campuses across the pond also available if “student life in the US is preferred” – as the website states – has been running for some years. It is known as a leading “elite summer school” provider.

Junior programs in general were heavily impacted by the Covid pandemic, and in the UK especially, Brexit has continuously hampered interest from European students.

These more expansive – and crucially, pricier experiences, for the right students – could be the key to help some organisations recover quickly from the pandemic. EC Global Achiever Academy’s prices start at £3,000 per week, with each program lasting two weeks.

Also dipping its toes into the high-end market is UKLC, with a brand new, individual-facing Wycombe Abbey summer school program.

While English language learning is still very much a part of the course, electives and extracurriculars are highly-valued.

The language learning is much more specific to prep for work or a boarding school experience – something that’s been in particularly in demand with Chinese students, the company’s sales and marketing director said.

“The activities and excursions tie in with the topics covered during lessons for a more holistic academic approach,” explained Katya Bonello.

“The course is tailored towards aspirational students aged 12-17. This program is designed to equip participants with the necessary tools to maximise their potential to excel in an ever-changing world,” the release on the new camp said.

This more comprehensive approach is being taken by London School of English too. Its head stressed that once it could conduct its new high-end residential program as well as its more affordable mainstream courses, it was a gap in the market that not many were filling.

“I think especially recently, people really are investing in their kids”

“[It’s] a way of tapping into a new market strain – which is kids who’ve done this kind of stuff over and over again – they’re actually very oversaturated with summer courses and need something different,” Hauke Tallon, chief executive, told The PIE.

Extracurriculars that are offered by EC’s Global Achievers Academy include leadership, life skills, and technology sub-courses among others.

London School of English even has two-thirds of its program focusing on career development, as opposed to the general English learning portion which makes up the rest.

EC’s venture is even more nuanced – with the courses on offer at each location in Boston (at Harvard), London, Singapore and Cape Town. But the idea, one that hasn’t been seen before, Greaves posited, is that over a four-year period, students can go to each location, and have an entirely different experience.

“By the end of that, they’ve essentially travelled the world in this cohort and they’ve built these global connections by the time they’re 18,” he added.

There are no commitments for booking the full four-year roster, but the natural objective is to make the student want to come back to do the next location each summer of their teenage years.

“It’s tapping into a new market strain – which is kids who’ve done normal summer schools over and over again”

The only caveat, of course, is the price range for these programs – which are only open to a certain cohort of students – and thus, a smaller cohort of agents have been enlisted to recruit.

“While we’re not exclusive, we know it is a smaller market of people that have the ability to reach the market of these parents, so we have a group we’re working with and numbers are currently looking good,” Greaves relented.

The mantra for all of these new programs though is what could propel others to elbow their way into the market – it’s for students who have “done the standard summer camp and want something different”, as Bonello recounted.

“There’s plenty of options out there where people can study English but then actually having it sort of formulated like this, I think, is quite unique.

“There is definitely a demand for higher end programs and I think especially recently, people really are investing in their kids,” he added.

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