The rooms and outdoor areas at English in Margate language school are buzzing once more with students from across the globe.
After a virtual standstill over the two years of pandemic and associated restrictions, the property in Hawley Square is now back to full strength with between 60 and 130 young and mature students every week.
For the students, it is a place where they can improve their English language skills and explore Thanet and further afield. For the school it is a return to business, employment of staff and the knowledge that they are helping people to grow and learn.
And for Thanet, it is a huge boost to the local economy and a chance to learn about other countries and cultures from the visitors.
English language schools play a significant role in the visitor economy in Thanet, creating jobs, and supporting a large number of host families.
In 2013 the total business turnover associated with study visits to the district was an estimated £47.8 million, and approximately £6.3million was paid to around 2,800 host families in the district. Students total spend in Thanet was an estimated £33.6 million, equating to an average daily spend of £67.95 per day, per student, including their tuition fees. These visits also supported around 1000 jobs.
Figures for the 2020 Economic Impact Assessment report, published this year, do not cover language schools because the pandemic meant an extended period of closure. However, the tourism industry as a whole for Thanet saw its value estimated at £126,266,000.
Adam Wilton, from Ramsgate, opened the language school in 1995 having been in the industry since 1986.
For him the history of the Grade II listed site means it has come full circle. He said: “When this building came up for sale it was owned by the MoD and was a drill hall. Long before that it was connected to the Theatre Royal and was the Sarah Thorne school for actors so it has come full circle and is now back to being a school.
“I grew up in Thanet so it very much has a place in my heart and I love bringing students young and mature to the area and showing them what a great place it is and what it has to offer.”
And, Adam and his team are pleased to see the students returning after the enforced hiatus due to covid.
Adam said: “It was a strange two years, rattling around the building alone so it is good to get people back, to be busy and to help revive the local economy after a couple of lean years.
“Language schools are an essential part of Thanet tourism, it brings in significant money through things such as coaches, home stays, employment, spending. I’d say the students are the backbone of Thanet tourism.”
Activity manager Patrick Grant says the language school also helps to increase the popularity and profile of Thanet as well as bringing multiculturism to the district.
Ramsgate resident Patrick, 35, added: “It is a wonderful job. We get to work with people from all over the world and are learning new things all the time. Seeing people improve and learn, and seeing them come back, is beautiful.
“The adult leaders get to make friends across the world and having such multiculturism here means people become more open minded.”
What the students say
Emilien Kohaanicki, 22, from France: “I have been in Margate one month and study basic English to improve in it for my engineering degree. We need to spend 12 weeks in other countries for the degree.
“Margate has a beautiful beach and I have spent a lot of time in the town and have also been to Canterbury, Ashford, Ramsgate and London.”
Pierre Machat, 23, from France: “I like this (school) for the teaching, different activities and meeting lots of people of different nationalities. I am staying with a family in Broadstairs and it is nice to discover other (towns) and it is good to speak to people in the house as it is very good practice for speaking and listening to help me improve my English.”
Bastien Tiset, 21, from France: “It is very good to be here for speaking. In France we have a teacher but they are French so they do not have the British accent.Here it is better because the teacher is British.
“Being here helps me to improve my speaking because of contact with British people. The southern accent is easier to understand for overseas visitors.”
Group leader Andrada Stiibei, 21, from Spain, is responsible for a group of 19 younger teenage students. She said: “I travelled with them from Spain and make sure they are safe and happy. Thanet is quite small but that means you can go anywhere and there is so much to do, like going to the beach.
“They are here to learn English and have lessons in the morning. They stay with families and practice their English both at school and also at home where they have to communicate with their host family in English.”
All host families are subject to a full DBS enhanced disclosure, a Gas Safety check, and will be visited by one of the school’s accommodation team. If you are interested in hosting a student email firstname.lastname@example.org or find the school online at https://www.leolanguages.com/