What to look for in a summer school: five questions for parents and guardians

There are hundreds of summer schools out there. Relocate’s expert educators answer the five questions parents should be asking.


British International School Phuket

Is it the right summer school for my child? At UK-based Summer Boarding Courses each programme is carefully designed for a specific age range to meet their academic and developmental needs, says director Will Finlayson, whose courses take place in iconic academic UK locations including Eton College, Oxford, and Cambridge.  “We have play-based learning for younger students through to immersive career and university preparation for older teenagers and we build our programmes in-house to maximise the learning experience.” At XCL Camps in Singapore, which runs summer school for 3–16-year-olds, programmes are curated to cater to specific interests. “Whether your child's aspirations are in STEM, coding, the arts, sports, languages, drone flying, or eco-adventures, we provide options,” says Tammy Murphy, CEO of Singapore schools for XCL Education which operates summer and winter camps at XCL World Academy.Does the course have the right ratio of learning to fun? Students respond best to a programme which combines academics with relaxation so they can learn in an enjoyable and interactive way. “While the academic year prioritizes the teaching of core academic skills, critical thinking, and analytical abilities, our summer camp is geared towards nurturing students' communication and social skills,” says Simon Meredith, head of the British International School Phuket (BISP) which hosts an action-packed summer programme with a choice of three tracks: adventure sports, football and English. All students spend the afternoons on teambuilding and recreational activities.  “Our camp empowers students to delve into their interests and passions, fostering self-confidence along the way,” says Meredith.Are the staff suitably qualified? “There is nothing more important than the safety of children,” says Summer Boarding Courses’ Will Finlayson. “We have well-qualified, experienced, and passionate staff teams in place to support all our young people.”A good summer school should have experienced instructors who are adept at teaching the subject matter effectively. They should be able to engage students, adapt to different learning styles, and provide constructive feedback,” says Catherine Carden-Brown, director of admissions and higher education at Epsom College in Malaysia which operates the Epsom British Summer School. “Clear communication with students and parents/guardians is also essential and we provide regular updates on students,” says Carden-Brown.Will summer school help develop my child’s social skills? Summer programmes provide children with opportunities to develop social skills, independence, and resilience in a supportive and adventurous environment. “Participation in fun activities and team-building exercises fosters friendships and promotes confidence,” says Tammy Murphy, CEO of Singapore schools for XCL Education which operates camps for students from Singapore and overseas during the summer and winter breaks at XCL World Academy. “Exposure to new experiences and challenges helps children expand their horizons and discover new interests, contributing to their overall personal growth and development.”Summer schools can also be a fantastic incubator for international contacts and friendships: “We have a truly international student cohort,” says Will Finlayson from Summer Boarding Courses,which welcomes students from over 152 different nationalities to ensure all programmes are underpinned by global citizenship. “To be exploring subjects like law, business, psychology, and international relations with a cohort from diverse backgrounds creates a truly inspiring learning environment,” says Finlayson.“The benefits of summer school extend beyond immediate language gains,” says Epsom’s Catherine Carden-Brown. “Students come from diverse backgrounds which fosters language exchange and promotes cross-cultural understanding. Our summer school nurtures lifelong learning skills, including problem-solving, adaptability, and perseverance—qualities essential for personal growth.”

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Can summer school help prepare for university? Summer schools can be a great way of expanding a pupil's reading and engagement with their degree subject of choice. “I advise students to choose experiences which are primarily academic in their nature,” says Alicia Luba of Oxbridge Applications. “Remember, it's what they've learnt on the course, not just the fact that they've attended it, that will carry weight in a UCAS application. Keeping notes or an academic diary throughout the summer course is always a good idea."Summer residential programmes can also be a great way of preparing for life at university.  “For students who have never lived or studied away from home, these programmes give a great taster experience to ensure that when the time comes, they know what to expect and are full of enthusiasm and excitement,” says Summer Boarding Courses’ Finlayson.Can they help English language skills? At the British International School Phuket students develop and build on their English skills in a nurturing environment using the Cambridge English Young Learners courses. Students who complete the four-week English course have the option to take an end of course exam and earn a certificate.The Epsom British Summer School has a range of immersive and intensive courses for students learning English. The concentrated nature of the courses ensures that students undergo rapid language acquisition, honing their speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills in a relatively short span. “One of the highlights of the Epsom British Summer School experience is its emphasis on immersion. Amidst engaging activities and enriching excursions, students find themselves immersed in an English-speaking environment, not only sharpening their language skills but also gaining invaluable insights into English-speaking cultures,” says Epsom’s Catherine Carden-Brown.

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