Q. What should I consider when narrowing down my search of summer schools? Oscar, Surrey
The amount of summer schools currently on offer is overwhelming. Similarly to when choosing a prep or senior school, parents should consider a variety of factors before choosing which one is best.
Day or residential?
The most obvious consideration is whether you are looking for a day or residential programme. Day schools and camps will have different focuses. For example, many specialise in sports, performing arts, or academic studies, although some may have a combination of all three. They will usually provide snacks and lunch and most of the children will be local. The UK is also host to a multitude of all-inclusive residential programmes, the majority of which are based at boarding schools or on university campuses. Although prices are significantly higher for these, they include all meals, lessons, activities, accommodation and excursions. There are usually extra charges for specialist activities such as horse-riding as well as airport transfers.
Home or abroad?
The residential summer schools are naturally more multicultural as students travel from all over the world. This means your son or daughter is sure to come away with a global network of friends. If you can bear the thought of sending your child abroad for the summer, this could be the most inspiring and life-changing opportunity and it is worth looking into options such as Enforex’s camps throughout Spain, or Stafford House’s camps in USA and Canada.
Once you have decided on this, you can begin to look for the summer school that’s right for your child. Does a small one with a family-feel appeal? Do you want one close to the sea, a large city or in the countryside? Do you want one that has a focus on a specific area such as English or a foreign language, academic subjects, sports, drama, film-making, public speaking, to name just a few? You might want to nurture a skill or interest your child already has or perhaps go for something completely new and different that they might not otherwise have the chance to do. Some programmes, such as Bucksmore Education’s at Plumpton College, offer unique options like animal care, which involves seven hours a week of tuition and interaction with an extensive range of animals onsite. Others such as Marlborough College offer a huge array of options including fly-fishing, martial arts and fashion marketing. Make sure you look at a range of summer schools and find something that catches your child’s eye.
Bear in mind that many residential summer schools have a focus on English language as they are geared towards international students so make sure you check the school’s stance on this before committing. It is also worth checking the age range and nationalities of students – in our experience the good schools will have a ‘nationality cap’ of 10 per cent to guarantee a truly international experience. Finally, watch videos, read testimonials from previous students, and include your child in the decision-making process. Go with your gut instinct, it is nearly always right!
Rachel Breckner is an Educational Consultant at Gabbitas Education.