Over the last few years, our excursions have become more ‘bespoke’. We have provided a coach to London or wherever and the children have opted for different experiences radiating out from where they arrive.
I have now decided that all the trips will be completely optional and am arranging a programme of small group visits which parents will book at the application stage. All these optional trips will be at cost price or as close to it as is reasonably possible. These are add-ons to enhance our visitors’ experience of this country. The first of these is the ‘Harry Potter Experience’ day out at Warner Brothers Studios to see the film sets, the costumes, etc. and to have a session with an expert on taking an idea from script to set. This is, of course, relevant to the video creation ‘task-based’ teaching that is a major part of our teaching programme.
Other ideas will follow. These will be small-group trips, so ‘first cone, first served’.
Joe Wallis suggest that ‘What’s My Passion’ should be the theme of the 2014 Board Meetings. It was a splendid theory, but having spoken to any number of students whose passion was to become professional sportsmen and women, I reverted to the original theme of ‘The Developing Me’. Joe Wallis stimulated discussion by encouraging the children to look at their own countries from afar and talk about customs and attitudes that might be peculiar. Odd, some certainly were. This idea will be continued in 2015.
Other organisations have spotted what I do and copied it by getting the Director to meet the students so that they gain from his linguistic expertise. Vacational Studies Board Meetings are absolutely not for this reason. The Board Meetings that I introduced five years ago serve to keep in the front of our young visitors’ minds the reason they are here.
Vacational Studies is an experience. There is a special way to approach this experience. The benefits can be huge. Our young visitors need to know this and discuss it and how it can benefit them.
Vacational Studies is all about the development of young people. The theme of the Board Meetings is ‘The Developing Me’. The subject that everyone knows most about is themselves. Vacational Studies is all about communication. What people enjoy talking about most is what they are passionate about. We shall be concentrating on passions.
In addition to ‘War Horse’, I shall try to obtain tickets to ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ and ‘Billy Elliot’.
There will be one with its own password. I am all in favour of openness, but I prefer to keep students’ names private and I am sure parents agree. Also, the trouble with being an innovator is that one’s ideas get copied. There is one web site on which I can see my ideas regurgitated within days of my having had them. This is one of several ‘organisations’ run by former members of staff which present themselves as ‘fully accredited’ – by an organisation that has set itself up as an accrediting agency, but which is accredited only by itself.
So I have a couple of ‘secret’ pages, visible only to parents and staff.
In these recessionary times, it is useful to consider what we can do to enhance eventual employment possibilities. Universities and employers love qualification certificates. We are a Centre for the Trinity examining board and this summer will offer its range of spoken qualifications with a certificate given in each grade. Students can take the examination each summer and gain a higher grade certificate each time.
The examination will be a natural follow-on from the work we are doing on formal spoken English. It will require no additional preparation (although our Director of Studies will offer this) and places no stress on candidates.
Students will be entered at the correct level for their ability (which we shall decide) so their qualification will be in one of these bands:- Initial; Elementary; Intermediate; Advanced with a grade within each of these bands:-
*This is an international certificate that is calibrated to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and which is accepted by employers, trainers and universities around the world.
We had our first Trinity failures in 2014. Candidates are expected to take the lead in this oral examination and maybe a few thought they would be helped out by the examiner more than they were. Trinity are aware that their exams are used as an indication of competence for obtaining a visa and the criteria are stringent. We shall continue with Trinity in 2015.
As I am proud of what we offer young people, I am curious to know why some parents decide not to choose us for their children. I learned from one parent that it was because another school offered a choice of extra-cost activities (horse-riding, golf, etc.) and a choice of 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 weeks stays. It took me back to our early years in the 1970s.
I’m sure I wrote about why we don’t offer these in our 1970-something brochure, but I thought it would be an idea to explain again here why we have ‘been there, done that’ and dropped the whole idea.
We used to offer golf and horse-riding – and archery and guitar lessons (and others), too. They looked good in the brochure and, in themselves, were a good idea. The more, the merrier. In practice, however, what happened was that all these activities took students away from the activities we organised and away from their new international friends. Those who had been booked for these extras did not want to take them and we had to oblige children to do what they did not want to do. In the end, we simply discontinued offering these extras.
We think we offer a super an action-packed programme in an international milieu without the need for extras.
As for offering a choice of lengths of Course, we used to do this, too. I discontinued this as I think the best way to create an international community is to have everyone arrive on Day 1 (knowing no one) and leave on Day 28 (knowing everyone and in tears). Between these days, friendships are made and a real community spirit is created.
So (apart from the few on the Lite programme) this is what we do.
The options we offer are to do with experiences that can only be had in this country. Sports coaching can be undertaken in the student’s own country.
Our Course is a structured learning experience. Events like the Board Meetings above are, I think, far more relevant to this developmental experience than distractions which fill up the time. I wonder if those courses offering a multiplicity of choices have Board Meetings and Public Speaking competitions as well as:-
I suspect not…
Vacational Studies in 2015 will remain as multinational as always. A major change for this year is that I have extended our age-range to include the full European secondary school age-range to 19. As schools do not exclude 19s because of their legal ‘adult’ status, nor shall I. Most 18 year-olds are still at school in the UK and 19 year-olds elsewhere. I think Vacational Studies should not be an exception. Increasing the upper age limit has led to the development of a hierarchy of positions of responsibility which I describe on the page ‘House Captains, Prefects and Apprentices’.
Vaccles are the currency of the Course and are in several denominations. They are paid out for good work, using English, good behaviour, participation, etc. There are also Vaccle fines for lack of effort, not using English, poor behaviour, absence of participation, etc. To spend Vaccles, students will have to earn them. Vaccles can be used to ‘buy’ various treats – such as internet access time, chocolate bars and jumping the queue….
Here is a short film describing ‘vaccles’.
The Course is structured around a four-week period. The task-based project takes this length of time to complete and I know from experience that it is in Week 2½ that the inhibitions and barriers break down and this is when rapid progress is made. Our students do not find four weeks too long. The tears at the end show this.
But four weeks is a big step for some teenagers – and their parents – and it may be that holiday arrangements make four weeks impossible, so here is a the ‘Lite’ programme. Any two or three weeks can be chosen. It is ‘Lite’ because it is shorter, but also because whatever is in the programme during the weeks not chosen will clearly not be available. For uncertain newcomers, I suggest the first two weeks as the last two weeks can be added.
I think what makes us special is the continuity. Not only are we well into the second generation of students with children from the ’70s and ’80s keen that their children have the same fantastic experiences they had as youngsters, but there is a huge continuity of staff. Our British students (UK reps) are an innovation that few organisations emulate. My belief is that a Course cannot be international unless the UK is represented in its student body. There is an added advantage, though. Our UK Reps are almost always excellent (they are on a one week probation when they come to weed out those who fall short of expectations) and most of them apply for jobs on the Sports/Social side of the Course two years after their time as a student. This means that they know exactly how the Course runs, what activities work (and don’t work) and what the students want. They have been there; they know. In the year after their stay with us as a student, they may apply to be an ‘Apprentice’ on the next year’s Course in preparation for their work as staff. For teaching staff, Vacational Studies is an attractive prospect. We have teacher development sessions during the Course headed by our Director of Studies. Each year, I develop one or two talented staff by funding a DELTA course for them. This is a top TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualification. It is expensive (which Vacational Studies covers) and demanding of time and energy (which the member of staff provides.) Several senior teachers with us this year are DELTA-qualified. And with most students coming on personal recommendation, we are also incredibly international. Vacational Studies has always been run by me. I started it as ‘Educational Holidays’ in 1971 which I ran with two others. In 1973, I formed ‘Vacational Studies’ without partners. The values established over generations are constant, but every year is different and every year is special. For all our students it is a developmental summer and, as I shall say to them many times, ‘you are creating at this moment memories that will stay with you for ever.’ I have trademarked our new strapline ‘Days I’ll remember all my life™’.
We try to make the learning part of the Course as different as possible from the student’s lessons at his or her own school. No one wants to come to England in the holidays to go straight back to school. When everyone has arrived, we assess their level of English. We do this partly with a written test we have used for some years. Written English is only one of the skills, though, so we also look at spoken English. In addition, we try to ensure that the class is made up of those of a similar age, of boys and girls and of different nationalities. When we have class composition right, we look at how everyone works together and may, in the first few days, move people up or down according to their ability. Because the level of ability in the ‘first’ class varies so much from year to year, a student may be in this class for two or three years even though he or she may have made great progress. It all depends on the relative abilities of the other students and the next highest level. It is the actual teaching that is so different from everything our students have experienced. Much of the Course is taught through the medium of video-creation. The teacher will present the class with a theme. This theme forms the basis of the most of the work done in class. From this theme, the students will, by working in groups, create a script under the aegis of the teacher. In this process various aspects of grammar and orthography will come up for analysis. When the script has been decided on, the class will choose who are to work on the editing and production side of the video and who are to be the actors. Using digital film cameras, the classes shoot their films. Using Windows MovieMaker or other software, the classes then edit the footage. By this time, each class will be working together in an international group using English as a working language. They will probably no longer be aware that they are using English as a subject. It will have become second-nature. The edited footage is then uploaded to Shutterfly so that everyone can see the result. Take a look at last year’s student videos by clicking here. To help our students use English colloquially and with facility, we have a number of English youngsters who join the Course at my invitation and are just like all the other students with the exception that their ‘job’ is to mix with everyone and to be ‘learning resources’. We also use them to give one-to-one help if we feel that one of the youngsters would benefit, socially or educationally, from the assistance of a peer.
Vacational Studies is a very structured experience. While a young person is with us, we aim to provide immersion in a new and engaging multicultural English-speaking environment; a life that is utterly different from life at home. We construct a teaching programme that bears no resemblance to traditional English lessons at school, an activity programme that is novel and exciting and English-speaking friends from all over the world. We ask that parents trust us to get on with the job and know that we will contact them if there is something they need to know. In this context, constant contact with the known and familiar detracts from this experience. For this reason, we ask that mobile phones are not brought and, if they are brought, that they are kept in the office for use only on trips. We have two telephone afternoons so that parents can talk to their children and they can make and receive calls on the payphone any day after activities end at 21.00. During the 2009 Courses, we found that a small number of children had second mobile phones hidden in their dorms at the request of parents. In our rules, which parents give signed agreement to, we state our policy on mobile phones. Just as parents have trusted us for 38 years to provide exactly what we describe, we trust parents to abide by the agreement they have signed. It is important for us to know that the children for whom we accept responsibility understand that their parents trust us. If a parent asks a chld to act against the rules, we are undermined. We cannot discipline children for the actions of parents who undermine us. By the same token we cannot accept responsibility for children who selectively break our rules at the request of parents. We consider this makes it impossible for us to exercise our duty of care and is thus a breach of contract.
In the last 42 years, many of our students have achieved international success. I am featuring two of them here.
Vytas Paskunas came to us from Lithuania when in 1992 when his country was just emerging from years under Soviet control. He writes modestly of his achievements. He achieved five ‘A’ grades at ‘A Level’ and went on to achieve a First in Maths at Cambridge. He is now a Professor of Mathematics in Bielefeld, Germany. Here is his letter to me: [Letter from Vytas Paskunas] In Vytas’s case these most certainly are ‘Days I’ll remember all my life’.
Jesus Silva was with us for several summers in the 1970s as a student and the 1980s as a helper. He is now the Spanish Ambassador to Panama. Here is a link to a newspaper interview he gave when he was Ambassador to Jamaica.
My boys and I were his guests at his residence in Kingston a few years ago.
(Articles and information on other VacStuds students gratefully received…)
We have discontinued this concept in favour of Apprenticeships.
Vacational Studies limits the number of students from any particular country and tries to balance the number of boys and girls. This engineering is a clearly stated policy to create a Course on which English is the language used socially and boys and girls can make friends from many countries. In most areas of life nowadays, this would be simply impossible.
Just what is Vacational Studies? Are we a Summer School for children, a Summer Course for teenagers, a residential English Course for young people, an English Summer Camp, a Summer Camp in England? A few years ago to find something you wanted, like a Summer School for children in England, you would ask people you knew and they would give recommendations. It was quite simple – people who did not have experience of something asked people who did. And if you found something really good, you would tell your friends and neighbours otherwise they would never find out about it. Now, there’s no need to ask people. You can ask a search engine. Just enter a few words of a question and you get millions of answers. No need to go to the trouble of a conversation to elicit information; there it all is without a word being spoken. Just another click or two and there are web sites to put flesh on this information. Once there were informed people. Now there’s just information. Raw knowledge of variable quality. Once there were people who knew. Now there’s Google. ‘We’ve found this great course in England for the summer. Let me give you the address.’ No longer. Anyone can find addresses – of the www. variety. Pre-internet, it was personal recommendation. Now there’s ‘search engine optimisation’. The sad part of it all is that that search engines finding animated web sites are no indicator of quality. For
that, there is nothing to beat personal recommendation – and that’s what Vacational Studies relies on rather than the following:-
Just include enough information to cover all the words used in questions people might ask – and you can be up there in the first page of the answers they get. No point in being on the second page. No one looks at that. If the words that might crop up in questions don’t lend themselves to a natural inclusion on the pages of your web site, no matter. They can be invisibly placed on the site, embedded in the page, not for anyone to read, but just to be found by the spider-like search engine crawlers, trawling the web for references. Google, we’re told, doesn’t like these, but plenty of web sites have them and have had them for several years. Our SEOs (Search Engine Optimisers) asked me for several hundred words and phrases that they thought people looking for Courses such as ours might tap into a search engine. To understand what people might be looking for, I had first to clarify what we are. For those who know us, this is clear. We are more than a language Course in the summer; more than a summer camp in England; more than a Summer Course for Juniors. We are a complete growing-up experience; a step towards adulthood; a rite of passage. And for many, I am a contact in England for everything from a full-time school to how to find a UK manufacturer of toys made out of plush. I set my mind to it and came up with these (the list goes on and on, so there’s no need to read it…):-
vacanza studiodivertimentoinsegnamentosport ed amiciziatutto questo e` Mery HareCORSO DI INGLESE ESTIVOCORSO ESTIVO DI INGLESEragazzi di tutto il mondoqui per un solo scopoimparare e divertirsiattivita` estivestudio estivosport estivoriviste e filmcollegecampi da calcio,tennis,piscina,palla a volo,soft ball,basketball!!!studio ingleseposto perfetto per ragazzi ed adolescentiposto perfetto per imparare l`ingleseposto perfetto per divertirsiposto perfetto per passare un mese indimenticabileposto migliore per i vostri figliposto migliore per imparare l`inglese divertendosicollege che va da ragazzi dagli 11 ai 17 annicollege estivo per i vostri figli1 mese di puro ingleseun mese di inglese per voiinglese al 100%inglese e divertimentoimparare divertendosidivertendosi imparandodivertirsi ed imparareconoscere e giocareapprendere e divertirsisport e inglesescuola estivagiovani aprendisti di ingleseresidenza estivagiovani di tutto il mondovacanza studioINGHILTERRAi numeri uno per l`ingleseaprendere l`inglesepalla a volocalciotennisbasketballdanzapiscinanuotosoftballvolleyfootballinglesestudiosport e studiogiardino vedregiardino all`italianagiardino all`inglesegiardino con spananail college dei vincentificoalla ricerca di nuove amiciziegiochi e divertimentobellissimocollege fichissimofichissimo collegesud inghilterravicino londravicino oxfordtipica strutura inglesenuovi amorinuovi amicinuove conoscenzegitenouve esperienzeteatrouscite a teatrogite nei dintorni(DEL COLLEGE)insegnanti apertiinsegnanti disponibilistaff giovani
Sommerskole,språkskole,Engelsk sommerskole,Engelsk språkskole,Ferieskole,Gøy i EnglandLære EngelskInternasjonal skoleEngland gøyStorbritania gøy å læreStorbritania sommerskoleShopping for ungdomMøt folk fra hele verdenSport i EnglandFotballskoleTennisskoleRugbyskoleCricketskoleBordtennisFritidsaktiviteterMorro for alle fra 11-17Møt folk fra EuropaEuropa møt folkLær Engelsk i sommerLær EngelskBadbasseng EnglandSlapp av i ferienFrihet for foreldreKom i formaktivitetsskolemøt gamle vennerFå nye venner
CampCoursAnglettereActivites de vacancesActivites de vacamces damglettereActivite du camp
FerienlagerKursAktivitetenSpaßEnglischLernenSchulesprachreise sommerferien auslandsprachreise sommerferien englandenglisch international unterrichtunterricht ausfluege internationalLondon camp international4 wochen englisch spass4 wochen sprachreise englischInternat vier wochen sportCamp sport EnglandUnterricht sport spass
Cursos de inglesCursos para adolecentesEscuela de ingles en inglaterraActividades para el veranoActividades para chicos y chicas eninglaterraEscuela en inglaterra para un mesUn mes para aprender inglesUn colegio en inglaterra para chicos ychicas en veranoInglaterraColegio de inglesEscuela en verano para aprendere inglesChicos y chicas en un colegio un mespara aprendere el inglesCampo esculea para aprender inglesCursos para mejorar el inglesdivertiendoseIngles y deporteUn mes para hacer deporte y aprenderinglesIngles y deportes divirtiendoseEscuelas inglesas en InglaterraCursos language for children or juniorslearning english language in the respect of students’ parentslearning english language kidslearning english make a livinglearning english,sports activitiesles brochures de séjour linguistiques voir bulletin d’inscriptionlettera di presentazione a uno studente in ingleselettre de recommandation en +anglais pour etudiant gratuitlettre de recommandation par unenseignant à un étudiant gratuitlettre de recommendation pour eleves exemples gratuitslezioni di inglese non ha pagamento a westminster londralista de platos tipico de inglaterralondon paddington nach newburylondon schülerfahrten sommermap of cheam schoolmenu tipico inglesemenù tipico inglesemenüfolge iinternationalnewbury londres kilometrosnewbury summer school engishordine grandezza englishorigine del basketball in lingua englishoxford summer school stipendium schuelerparlare inglese all’aeroportopass merit distinctionpassaporto europeo inglese bphoto body study englishpiatto tipico inglese a natalepie studentplat typique de l’angleterreplatos frio de irlandapreisselbeer englischpreoccupazione genitori discotecheprogramme summer jamquel est le plat ” typique ” en angleterre ?quel train de londres jusqu a poolequels vetements prendre en séjourlinguistiquerationale courseresidential english kid summerand this is a store for some copy and paste-type links (on the assumption that no one will have read this far…):- on with the searchterms…
seetecsejours linguistiques anglaissocial life in sportssocial studies all you need to knowsport social activitiessport vacationalsports daysports language of kidsstudds gensstudent jobs summerstudent piestudent summer vacanciesstudent summer jobsstudent vacancies summerstudy english for childrenstudy on children in schoolsummer english coursessummer jobsummer jobs studentsummer student jobssummer english school childrensummer english school childrengreat summer experience boys english school childrenenglish lessons youngsterssummer job and and internationalsummer job application form What do you think? If you have tapped in different search terms, let me know. Also, may I have some more French, Spanish and German, please? Now that I have included all these terms,maybe those searching will find us.