If you’re living in London and English isn’t your first language, it’s highly likely that you’ll want to improve your language skills. Or perhaps you’re intending to come to London specifically to study English. Whether you’re looking to study full time or part time, there are a bewildering number of schools and study locations in London. This can make it somewhat of a challenge to decide which school will be best for you.
However, by following a few simple steps it’s possible to narrow down your search to a handful of schools that you can then visit before making your final choice. You’ll need to ask yourself three basic questions about your requirements for studying English.
- Where do I want to study?
- How do I know that the school provides good quality education?
- Is the school a ‘fit’ for my individual educational needs?
Where do I want to study?
The location of your school is an important one. It’s likely that you’ll want a school that’s either close to home or work – with easy transport links to get there. Thankfully, London boasts an excellent public transport system. Looking for a school close to a tube station or bus stop will make your trek far less stressful.
Of course, if you’re coming to London specifically to study English, then you can choose the school first, and then look for accommodation in the general vicinity. You can choose to study at a school, college or university that offers a wide range of other subjects, or you might prefer a private, specialist English language centre.
How do I know that the school provides good quality education?
Fancy websites and literature are all very well, but this is no guarantee that a school provides quality tuition. Good schools feature ‘accreditation’. This means the school is regularly inspected by one of the recognised accrediting bodies to ensure that the education they provide is up to standard. In addition to the teaching provided, they are also screened for administration, management and student care.
There are a few accrediting bodies, and the school will mention on their website or literature which one they adhere to. The following are the names of the official bodies you should be looking for when choosing an English language school.
- The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations, and provided the very first accreditation scheme for English schools in the UK and worldwide. In addition to this quality control, the British Council provides various examinations that are recognised on a global scale.
- Accreditation UK. This is still the British Council, and is a quality assurance scheme for institutions that offer courses in English as a Foreign Language (EFL).
- The Accreditation Body for Language Services (ABLS) was established in 1993, and is approved for accrediting private education providers to visa students in the UK.
- The British Accreditation Council sets the standards for the independent further and higher education sector.
- The Accreditation Service for International Schools, Colleges and Universities (ASIC) is responsible for the accreditation of a wide number of educational establishments throughout the UK.
Check that the school has been inspected by one of the following:
- The Independent Schools Inspectorate
- The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
- The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education
Is the school a ‘fit’ for my individual educational needs?
This is vitally important, and you need to understand exactly what it is that you’re looking to gain from your English studies. Are you looking to study full time or part time? What level of qualifications are you looking to achieve? Do you want to gain a degree at the end of your study period? Are you looking for the complete ‘uni’ experience, or do you want a school that offers evening classes that you can fit around your day job?
When it comes to universities in London, you can check out the individual satisfaction ratings on the official University League Table. This assessment is carried out on an annual basis, and rates the school on performance such as entry standards, student satisfaction, research assessment and graduate prospects.
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices by following the above procedure, the next step is to;
Visit your short-listed schools
Of course, this is if you’re in a position to do so. In some instances you might be organising your English study from your own country. If this is the case, you should do as much investigation as you can before making the move. The best schools will be more than happy to give you as much time as you need to answer your questions.
Most schools and universities have open days. These give you the opportunity to visit all areas of the school, meet teachers, other pupils and get answers to your questions.
Schools should also be able to provide you advice on obtaining the relevant study visa if necessary. The UKBA website provides further advice on this. There is also an excellent YouTube video that explains the procedure for applying for a Tier 4 Student Visa.
Studying English in London is a fantastic choice. With a little planning, you’ll ensure that you find the language school that suits you, and provides the high quality education you require. In addition to this, you get to spend time in one of the most vibrant and exciting cities of the world – an experience that’s guaranteed to stay with you for the rest of your life.