Smaller is beautiful in EFL, says Jonathan Swindell of Quality English
You come from a background of general education. How did you end up running Quality English, an association of EFL schools?
I have always had a passion for education and working in the industry was inevitable for me. My varied experiences have given me a broad background and understanding of the many elements of the education world as a whole.
Working at the General Teaching Council exposed me to the challenges faced by teachers in what is often an underappreciated profession, while my diverse role at the Association of Business Executives gave me a taste for collaboration between similarly- minded schools. Subsequently, focusing on international partnerships and recruitment at the University of Reading, opened my eyes to the importance of international education, learning a second language and becoming a ‘global citizen’.
My role at Quality English (QE) has enabled me to bring all of this together. Four years in and I’m still loving the industry and our role in it.
“...a worldwide network of similarly-minded schools that support and care for their students.”
Your association emphasizes the importance of non-chain independent language schools. From the point of view of agents, parents and, of course, the students, what are the three most important reasons for choosing your schools?
We were established more than 16 years ago to support and showcase carefully selected, independent English Language Schools in English-speaking countries. So, I would say there are three main reasons for choosing a QE school or a Quality Education (QED) college.
First, their dedicated and passionate owners are involved in the dayto- day running of the schools, and take enormous pride in the education and the service they provide to their students.
Second, these unique schools are often smaller than chain schools, so each student is treated as an individual and welcomed in as part of a family.
Finally, our schools must have local accreditation. But we go above and beyond that by running our own inspections to ensure that every element of the service and student experience is excellent.
The association has moved into the ‘domestic’ EFL market – schools in non-English speaking countries catering for local students.
We introduced Quality English Associate Schools (QEAS) in order to form collaborations between our members and high-quality EFL schools in non-English speaking countries.
There are now 10 QEAS in nine different countries, all small, independent institutions that offer high standards of teaching and support and also often work as agents to send students overseas. Students who progress from one of them to a member school in English-speaking countries benefit from a consistent style of learning environment and a seamless transition from one supportive institution to another.
From the perspective of our members, they know that the students will be well-prepared for their studies overseas.
QEAS can use our logo, demonstrating they meet our standards, have a profile on our website and can take part in numerous networking opportunities with members. Recently we have also developed a jobs board for teaching opportunities between QE schools and our associates.
Above all, though, they know that they are part of a worldwide network of similarly-minded schools that support and care for their students.
And what does the future hold?
One of our key strengths is the ability to collaborate and work as a group. Next year we will be hosting events in China, which is an exciting new market for many of our schools. The care and support that QE schools offer is well suited to Chinese students, who will also benefit from a focus on academic development and diverse nationality mixes.
We have recently started to develop new events for our schools, such as our Market Exploration to Oman and our Teacher CPD Day in Udine last year. Many of our schools supported our recent scholarship programme for Japanese teachers in partnership with the Japanese agency association, JAOS. In 2020, we will be running a similar programme in Brazil, in partnership with their Brazilian equivalent, BELTA.
Of course, we will continue to showcase our schools through our regular missions and agents’ workshops in new and existing markets, as well as looking for new schools that meet our standards and fit in with the culture. We currently run seven missions a year, which continue to be popular with our licensed schools and agents all over the world.
We will also continue to work closely with our Corporate Partners to offer new opportunities to our schools such as insurance, new examinations, student databases and online learning apps to support their teaching.