Price cautious parents with young families are increasingly substituting the annual summer vacation for a family programme at a language school abroad. Combining language immersion with fun activities and sightseeing tours geared towards their specific age group, these niche courses have all the components of a holiday, plus that something extra.
“Family courses always book up first,” explains Lisa Bartsch, Director at Slaney Language Centre in Ireland. Parents travelling with older children (aged 16 and above) are enrolled together on an intensive English language course (available at varying levels), while younger children are split into two distinct age groups: six-to-10 year olds and 11-to-14 year olds. “The main focus of the children’s courses is conversation,” says Bartsch. “It is important to us that the children/teens gain confidence in using the English language and that they enjoy doing so.”
Atlantic Language Galway, also in Ireland, has offered its Family Package Programme for approximately four years, outlines the school’s Maeve Egan. She notes that demand stemmed from parents looking to upskill and holiday simultaneously. Spanish families are particularly drawn to this type of provision, notes Egan, and in 2012, the number of classes increased from 10 to 17.
Killarney School of English found its location on Ireland’s west coast a huge draw for families. “Killarney is a family destination and we thought to add this service to attract students,” relates Feargal Courtney. All ages are well catered for, with students as young as three accommodated at the school. In addition, if parents would prefer to enjoy the local environment (the school is on the edge of Killarney National Park) they can. “We will teach your children while you play golf, go fishing, take long walks in the National Park, visit places of historical interest,” details their brochure.
Families in search of a little Mediterranean sunshine will value the holiday destination of Cyprus. Antonios Venezis, Director of Pascal Summer Camps and Pascal English Schools, notes that all classes take place in the mornings, leaving afternoons free for families to enjoy the beach resort of Larnaca. “The family is accommodated altogether in one family room at our hotel/partner,” explains Venezis.
According to Garth Younghusband at Frances King School of English in the UK, demand for this type of provision led to the course’s inception over 12 years ago. Available at their central London schools only, Younghusband notes that 75 per cent of requests are from Europe.
Owing to a number of factors, Malaca Instituto in Spain prefers to handle requests for family programmes on an ad hoc basis, notes the school’s Bob Burger. “When the child is under 15 years (and therefore beneath the minimum age for our summer course at sister school La Brisa) the child needs to have one-to-one tuition and it is important that this is at the same time and same number of lessons per day as the parent.” For those aged over 15 years, Burger recommends parents enrol on a course at the main school while the child takes a summer course at La Brisa, just 20 minutes walk away.
Activities, cultural seminars and excursions are all part of the immersive learning experience, and at Accademia Italiana Salerno in Italy, parents, together with their children, can enjoy a range of activities, including a city tour, trips along the Amalfi Coast or attractions such as Arechi Castle. Parents and children must be taught separately, confirms School Director, Francesca Romana Memoli. “We have highly specialised teachers for both children and teenagers and the course material is different.”
The parent and child package available at IP International Projects, which has centres throughout Europe, is very flexible, notes Jana Gottermeyer. But the basic programme structure at its UK centres sees families accommodated in guesthouse accommodation. There is also the opportunity for older children to stay at the school residence to better mix with students attending IP’s junior summer school.
Schools offering parent and child courses in Europe
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