Broadstairs English Centre is creating a stepping stone to normality when it resumes its award-winning language school in the New Year.
From next January to June, the centre is opening its doors to students aged 11-17 years old through a carefully thought out plan with safety at its heart – a group of students from the same school will remain together at all times inside their own bubble.
At the start of the pandemic the BEC centre at the Broadway, Broadstairs, experienced cancellations and staff were working reduced hours.
The ongoing impact of covid meant BEC suffered inevitable staff lay-offs of more than 20 of its team and local host families were also affected.
But BEC, which was named the top-ranking, year-round young learners’ school in the industry’s 2020 rankings published by the international EL Gazette, is determined to provide an enjoyable educational experience of long-lasting learning and memories in spite of COVID.
The centre has enough accommodation for the students to live on site and enjoy a tailor-made programme for a stay from one week up to four.
Director Chris McDermott, who runs the centre with his brother Alex, said: “The beauty of this idea is the personal touch that has served us so well for a decade is really coming into its own. We started small and won respect and many friends from around the globe because of how we embraced our students and their leaders.
“Our response to the pandemic safety restrictions is to welcome small groups, one at a time, and they will get our undivided professional attention and expertise, a sort of red carpet treatment.”
As part of the BEC ‘bubble school’ students will travel, eat, learn, enjoy activities and excursions, all within the same social group. Their leaders will also exist inside their own bubble.
The Covid-secure BEC complex will be regularly deep cleaned, with the courses being delivered by a small group of dedicated professionals.
There is also a plan for optional activities that can be done, either online or socially distanced, with British children.
All staff are part of the King’s College London symptom study that monitors health every day, with a 24-hour test for anyone who shows any symptom.
Mr McDermott said: “We are also happy to let visiting groups implement the safety measures that they observe in their own country, so that the students are on familiar ground.”
He has pledged to send a Covid-secure coach to pick up children from accessible destinations in Europe if travelling by air is an issue for them and their families during the pandemic.
In case of a student displaying a symptom during their stay, BEC has rented a two-bedroomed apartment in Broadstairs where a student and relevant group leader can isolate while awaiting test results.
Excursions will be tailored to suit the needs of each visiting group, whether it is to London or to destinations more close by, exploring Kent’s culture and heritage.
Mr McDermott vowed: “The latest Covid risk for any specific destination will be thoroughly checked before any of our groups set off. I cannot stress how much personal safety is the cornerstone of everything about this initiative.
“We aim to be up and running as soon as we can, and we will be rebuilding our staffing structure and host family network. We have so many professional, enthusiastic, dedicated and kind people associated with BEC and we hope to welcome many of them back as soon as we can.
“Their response to the current situation has been overwhelmingly supportive and heart-warming.
“Internationally, interest remains high in what we do – I have regular links around the world with our network of providers and agents. We are discussing the January-June initiative with many of them. They like the professional, friendly, nurturing way we work and are very positive about getting back on track as soon as we achieve that safely.
“In the meantime, from this January BEC is taking steps to normality to give young people from abroad the safest and most memorable of experiences in the UK.”
In 2013 language schools turnover in Thanet was an estimated £19.7 million with approximately £6.3 million paid to an estimated 2,800 host families in the district.
Students total spend in Thanet was an estimated £33.6 million and language schools created around 1,000 jobs.
A survey, carried out by The South West Research Company Ltd. on behalf of Thanet council, estimated that 43,000 trips to Thanet are made annually by overseas students, accounting for 495,000 visitor nights.
Find out more at www.broadstairsenglish.com