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Independent UK schools fare best in benchmark survey

A study has shown UK independent English language schools outperform proprietary chain schools based on scores ranked against national averages from the British Council-endorsed accreditation rankings.

English in Chester is one of the independent schools that scores very highly based on analysis of British Council Accreditation reports

47% of all chain centres analysed were ranked below the national average, compared with just 18% of IALC schools

ELT title, EL Gazette, compared members of independent school consortium IALC against chain schools – considered as part of a group of four or more – by publishable results of the British Council’s Accreditation UK and discovered that over 20% of IALC members are in the top 5% of UK schools compared with only 4% of chain schools.

Melanie Butler, Editor of EL Gazette, explained, “By benchmarking the 32 IALC schools against 90 chain schools in the UK on a norm referenced basis, we found that IALC schools are in the top 23% of accredited schools on average.”

Further data mining uncovered that independent operators particularly fared well in terms of junior course provision, with IALC schools earning four times more “excellence/strength” accolades in this area than the national average and twice as many as chains.

Nevertheless, the analysis revealed certain chain operations rank well (St Giles maintains a top 20 per cent average ranking) despite indications from Butler that some chain schools demonstrated inconsistency in terms of standards of provision across centres.

Three chains meanwhile have separately accredited junior vacation operations that exceed the national average: LAL, Kings Colleges and ISIS Education, which operates three separate brands.

“I have always believed it is easier to control quality in a smaller, personalised environment”

Notably, the EL Gazette analysis shows that experience can be linked to excellence: only two of the schools it has ranked in the top 10% nationally were less than 20 years old.

John Duncan, Principal at IALC school ELC Bristol told The PIE News: “The statistics don’t surprise me.  I have always believed it is easier to control quality in a smaller, personalised environment, particularly in areas such as student welfare and accommodation.”

Nigel Paramor, Principal of English in Chester, another highly ranked school, said he believed that longevity of teaching staff was one reason for his school’s strong showing.

“Lots of our teachers have been here for 10 or 15 years and are extremely well qualified,” he said, adding, “Everybody understands and is working towards the same goal in a supportive atmosphere.”

EL Gazette maintains an evolving list of “Centres of Excellence”, based on points of excellence achieved in ongoing accreditations, although since the inspection system has changed, the new gold star endorsement in a given area, such as course design or pastoral care, is referred to as a “point of strength”.

Because of a lag between some newly inspected schools and those rated using the previous system, a more transparent listing of Centres of Excellence comparing both sets of data will not be available until later in the year.

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