This week the team at goprofe.com has brought you a guest post written by Gavin Ayre, the Assistant Course Director at Concord College in the United Kingdom. Check out his advice below:
The summer is fast approaching and many parents and teenagers from all over the world are starting to seriously think about applying to summer schools/camps. But with so many advertised, choosing the right one can be pretty daunting and it’s a question many parents struggle with.
How do you choose? Whether it be abroad or in Spain, don’t worry. Here are some tips to help you choose wisely and make the process a little easier.
Select the right type
Once you have a good idea of what you’re hoping to gain from the summer, it’s time to narrow down which type of programme will meet your needs as well as the student’s expectations. Below is a list of the different categories of courses that can be found:
- Academic Summer Schools: Your child can keep learning during the summer months and prevent summer learning loss. Academic schools, like Concord College in the UK, provide a fun balance of hands-on education, upbeat extracurricular activities and city excursions. This keeps your child intellectually engaged throughout, whilst developing their independence and social skills in a safe environment away from home. Summer schools are by no means all work and no play. These schools tend to be well established with excellent facilities, on-site activities and impeccable standards. (1-4 week, day and residential courses available)
- Fun Activity Based Camps: Summer camps build self-confidence and character in a traditional outdoor setting with more of an emphasis on activities and fun, and less emphasis on the academic side. Camps let children roam and play in a way they rarely do in their own neighbourhoods. It takes them away from computers, TV, and IPads, swapping them for conversation, fun, and games in a natural setting. (1-4 week, day and residential courses available)
- Adventure or niche camps: Fun, engaging, and high-energy—these camps are great for exploring new experiences. If you want your children to meet new friends with similar interests, niche camps are a must. They are ideal for children who are looking to further develop their passions in a subject area they love.
- Sports Camps: Sports camps are perfect for sporty students who are looking to learn new skills and keep active during the summer months.
Look for accreditation and safeguarding policy
Accreditation is the best evidence to show that a school or camp has made a commitment to their students’ health and safety and it directly reflects their commitment to offering an outstanding summer enrichment experience to every one of their students. Accreditation means that inspectors visit the school to check standards of management, teaching, resources and welfare (for English Language schools/camps look for: British Council, English UK, Quality Education or Quality English Accreditation).
In addition, look to see if the course is established. How long have the courses been running for? What is the returner rate for students? These all give an insight into the reputation and success of the school or camp.
Student safeguarding is of paramount importance. Some form of a safeguarding policy should be in place. After all, you are entrusting the camp/school with the care of your child; so how do they handle drop-offs and pick-ups? What do they require if someone other than you is going to be picking up your child from the course? How do they ensure each child is safe and accounted for on excursions? How do they cope with dietary needs or allergies? These are the kinds of questions you should ask the director. If they are not willing or able to answer your questions about safeguarding to your satisfaction, then you might consider looking elsewhere.
The teachers must be qualified and background checked
Determining the quality of teachers before attending the course is difficult but doable. Many camps/schools provide a teacher section on their website, explaining the various qualifications they require from potential teachers. If those schools or camps are accredited, they should have a minimum qualification requirement. (Degree + TEFL/TESOL/CELTA Qualification).
All teachers/instructors should be police background checked. In the UK it is a minimum requirement for all those working with children to have a DBS Check, preventing unsuitable people or those with criminal convictions from working with vulnerable groups such as children. In Spain the DBS is in the form of ‘’Certificado de Antecedentes Penales’’. Ask the School/camp if these checks have been done.
With both of these things, parents can rest assured that their children will be looked after by top-notch staff.
A range of fun activities, excursions and evening entertainment.
Keeping your child active, engaged and socialising throughout the day, week or month is one of the camp’s/school’s most challenging tasks and those with the most experience are those who tend to succeed. Don’t be afraid to ask for a list of on-site and off-site inclusive activities such as: camping, hiking, rock climbing, city excursions, sports and nightly entertainment and additional non-inclusive activities such as golf, tennis or First Aid lessons. These would all provide your child with an unforgettable summer experience that will provide lifelong memories and skills.
Furthermore, the more nationalities the school or camp can boast, the better, in order to encourage English speaking socially and to take your child’s cultural awareness and command of English to new heights. How many nationalities attend the course? Do they take large numbers of students from one country? Is there a cap on the amount from one country? These are all questions you can ask. Don’t be satisfied with vague assurances: ask for specific figures.
Don’t be afraid to research
There are many camps and schools offering summer courses. So don’t be afraid to research, research, research, to ensure you make the correct decision. Thanks to the internet, there are endless ways to learn more about summer courses that catch your child’s interest. Browse competitor websites, take a tour of the facilities, read google reviews, or discuss the programmes and courses with the course director or an educational agent. Tapping into your own social group for suggestions is also one of the best ways. Ask around and see where other friends have sent their children. A personal recommendation is often a great indicator of what your child’s experience will be like.
THE BIG ONE!! – Cost
Summer schools and camps vary drastically in price, anything from a few hundred euros for a week long day camp in Madrid to 4000 euros for 1 month residential summer school in the UK. However, don’t let prices deceive you. Just because a summer programme appears to cost less at first glance, it doesn’t mean to say that it’ll cheaper once you take everything into account. Check everything that’s included in the price: Do you get 3 meals a day? Do you have a variety of inclusive activities? Is pick-up and drop-off included in the cost of the course? Laundry? What do you have to take? How much pocket money a week is necessary?
Remember to take those required things into consideration when determining the actual cost.
Never be afraid to ask about discounts for multiple sessions or students and if they have any scholarship opportunities. The most important thing of all is to feel comfortable with the money you are spending, and choose the best possible place for you and your child. The likelihood is, if you’ve researched fully and asked the right questions, your child will have a great time and you’ll be happy with the overall decision.
By Gavin Ayre (03/03/2017)
Assistant Course Director at Concord College, UK
Concord College Summer School, UK.
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