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Junior English Language Courses - How To Assess Courses For 13 - 17 Year Olds: Part 1 Host Families

February 15, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 179

As the Principal of an English School in England that provides summer programmes for juniors, I am often surprised by the types of questions that are asked by prospective parents. As a mother myself, I do understand the many concerns that parents have about sending their child to another country to learn English. However, I think that sometimes, the parents become so wrapped up in detail that they forget to look at the bigger picture and they overlook the fundamental questions to ask of a school.

This series of articles is intended to take a step by step look at how a course is actually administrated and run, which should give you a clearer idea of what kind of questions to ask and more importantly, what answers you should be looking for. I have to point out that I am talking about courses for students who are 13 - 17 years old - not younger ones.

Let's create an imaginary situation: You have booked a course with a school for your child. You may have booked it through an agent, or directly with the school. You have paid in full for the course and your 15 year old will be leaving for England in 4 weeks time. The course you have booked is 15 hours tuition, plus activities and the accommodation is homestay, that is, with a host family.

At least two weeks before your child is due to leave, you should have received a few things, one of these is the details of the host family. These details should include the address of the family and their contact details. Make sure that your child contacts the host family - an email is usually the best way to make the initial contact. Take some time to contact them yourself and build a relationship, however slight. It will make you feel happier about your child going to stay with them.

Host Families v Residential Accommodation

For the age group 13 - 17, there is no better course than a homestay course. Why? Because the input that a host family has can change a child's life. The combination of the English lessons, the activities in English and then the English at home makes all the difference between learning English and being immersed in it. Your child should be accommodated with another junior student from the same school. Often young learners share a bedroom with another student of the same gender, a similar age, but a different nationality. What this means is that the language the students have in common is English. The secret whisperings once lights have gone out will be in English, breakfast will be taken in English, homework support (which all good host families happily provide) will be in English - ALL of it is in English. Accelerated learning happens on homestay courses.

Residential courses are very good for the youngest students (8 - 12), but, in my opinion, not so great for this particular age group. The reason that I say this is that students on residential courses tend to gravitate towards students of their own nationality, with whom they can chat outside of the classroom. It is a natural thing, we all try to stick with our own kind, but this doesn't help your child. Evenings on residential courses tend to consist of staff spending their whole time desperately trying to get students out of same nationality groups and into mixed nationality groups - without much success! Yes, residential courses are a great way to get your young child used to the idea of being away from home and in a foreign learning environment, but they will become fluent in English much more quickly on a homestay course.

The Host Family Selection Process

Host families for junior students should be very carefully selected by the school. Ask the school how they select host families and what the host family enrolment process is. They should tell you the following:

that they have a dedicated member of staff who deals with accommodation that the family is visited during the application process that references are taken for the family that every single adult (over 18) in the house has an enhanced CRB check. The enhanced CRB check (Criminal Records Bureau) is the highest level of police check available in the UK. This enhanced check is very thorough and only those with a totally blame free history will pass it. Make sure that the adults have the enhanced version of the CRB check - there are others which are cheaper, but not as thorough. that the family is then visited at least twice a year for the whole time that they are registered as a host family that there is a designated person to whom students can talk to if they need to talk to someone (ideally, they will feel that they can talk to any member of staff, but you won't know that until they are actually at the school). This person is often called the Student Welfare Officer, or Client Welfare Officer and sometimes is the same person who deals with host families. that the host family have a 24 hour telephone number for the school - this is really important. The host family should be fully supported by the school and a member of school staff should be available to them 24 hours a day in case of emergencies. For example, a good school will know immediately a child is late home, or will be late into school, because the host families will keep in regular (sometimes daily) contact with the school. that the school has a curfew for junior students and that it is enforced firmly, but kindly. Be aware that in the UK, a 10pm curfew would be considered perfectly acceptable. If your 16 or 17 year old normally comes home at midnight, make sure that you explain to them that this will not be the case whilst they are in England. It is very important that all junior students comply with curfew times, it is one way in which the school is able to monitor and support your child.


Be aware that on the day of arrival, your child will be tired, a little homesick and therefore emotional and so PLEASE, take any strange complaints that they make with a pinch of salt! Students have told their parents all sorts of weird things on their arrival at the host family; that they were made to sleep in a cupboard with no bedding, that the host family didn't offer them anything to eat or drink, that the host family ignored them - the list is endless. As Principal, I then get phone calls on the first day of the course (students normally arrive at the host family on the Sunday, to start school on the Monday) from concerned parents, telling me all kinds of odd things. Without exception, when I speak to the student and the host family, these stories are just not true, and the student will look embarrassed and tell me that they were tired when they spoke to their parents. In 99% of cases, the host family will remain friends with the student long after they have returned to their home country and in some cases, the relationship between the host family and the student's family have turned into lifelong friendships.

If you want to learn English in England, Tudor Hall could be the place for you. Tudor Hall School of English is a small, professional school that specialises in just three things; exam preparation, English for the real world and summer programmes for younger students (13 - 17). Our passion is our students' success.

For more information, visit Tudor Hall School of English.

Sarah Short - Principal, Tudor Hall School of English

Source: EzineArticles
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