Special Report
Providers of junior programmes are constantly innovating in order to give young students the best experience. Georgina Deacon takes a look at what's in store for 2018 and investigates the current trends in this growing sector.

With more and more junior students seeking the study abroad experience and at increasingly younger ages, it is no surprise that both agents and schools report that the demand for these types of programmes is increasing. In a StudyTravel Magazine snap poll of 108 agencies, 69 per cent said that junior business had increased over the last 12 months. "This growth appears to be fuelled by the competitive edge students gain by engaging in education travel at a younger age," observes Andrew Goulding, Director of Junior Programs at ILSC www.ilsc.com. "Young learners travelling and studying through a junior programme develop familiarity with other cultures and a sense of independence in a supported and structured environment. Having this experience at such a formative time in their lives is a formula for success moving forward."



Ugo Toselli, General Manager at Alpadia Language Schools www.alpadia.com, agrees, and notes that as the general level of education worldwide increases, parents want their children to benefit from other languages and cultures as early as possible. He relates that a number of studies have shown that learning a new language in a social setting is the key to mastering it. "And nothing is more social than a junior programme, rich in activities," he adds. Alpadia offers summer camps for juniors in the UK, Germany, France and Switzerland. Of the latter, the country in which they started, he says that having four official languages (German, French, Italian and Romansch) means that they "know what it takes not only to teach and learn, but also to be immersed in a language".


New offerings


Year on year, innovative schools are responding to the increasing demands of young students who want their language learning to be accompanied by fun and the opportunity to learn new skills. "In addition to continued exposure to language study, the actual travel experience itself is having a truly profound impact on these young learners," says Andrew. ILSC are opening a new residential junior camp this year at McGill University - MacDonald Campus in Québec, Canada, which he says will host their largest age range, from eight to 17 years old. "Early exposure to language education and international travel provides such a leg-up to youth," notes Andrew. ILSC will also host a junior camp programme at their New York campus for 13-to-17 year olds in 2018.



New for this year at Xplore www.xploretheworld.com, which offers residential and activity camps around the globe, are English Plus courses, where students can learn and develop a whole variety of skills in addition to classroom ELT learning. "We're offering a range of sports, from football, rugby and horse riding, to more technical courses like LEGO Robotics and Robotics Programming," says Emma Devine, Marketing Manager at Xplore. "We are strong believers that socialising and engaging in an un-pressured environment can encourage the very best of our students, that's why we keep our activity programme varied alongside structured English language lessons underpinned by Anglia Examinations."


In Japan, demand from other Asian countries during their school periods has led to the creation of new programmes year round at Hokkaido Japanese Language School www.hokkaido-jals.com. "Within 2017/18, in addition to our Winter and Summer Course programmes, we also launched a Spring Course and Autumn Course to ensure that a wide range of students are able to access language courses, cultural lessons and activities throughout the year," notes Peta Ohata, Assistant Manager.



At Taunton School www.tauntonschool.co.uk, a UK-based secondary provider, a two-week junior sports course has been created where students take part in a different sport each day, as well as take three hours of English language study. Lisa Palmer, Director of Marketing & Admissions, says they have seen an increasing number of applications for juniors aged seven years and above. "We can offer effective preparation for joining a mainstream British school," she explains. "We have an international school for juniors and can accept students for year-round study."


Looking to make their centres unique is Find Education www.finddigs.co.uk/summer-camps, which offers English language study around the UK. Their Royal Hospital School will offer English+ in summer 2018, where students can choose to take part in a range of activities twice a week, including drama, sailing, horse riding or dance. Nadia Zammal, Sales Manager, says that this is ideal for students looking to start or further a hobby. She adds that their Westonbirt School centre, which was for students aged 12-to-17 years, now caters for students aged eight-to-11 years, due to the demand coming from younger students. The outdoor grounds will also be made use of through group sports, such as football and basketball, as well as golf, water games and nature walks.



English+ is also in demand at MLI International Schools www.mli-group.com, which has centres in the UK and Ireland. At their Rosemont School Dublin centre, Rebecca Stead, MLI UK Sales & Operations Manager, says they have created a new Intensive English Plus programme for students aged 14-to-17 years. A junior immersion course will also be offered this year at their Dublin homestay centre at Rosemont School for 10-to-13 year olds. "They spend their mornings with local Irish children doing a wide range of activities and have English lessons in the afternoon," notes Rebecca. "It's such a fantastic opportunity!" MLI has also partnered with FCV International Football Academy, in the UK to offer English + Football Training at their Loughborough College centre.


Finding individuality


In such an innovative sector, as well as new programmes, schools need to find other ways to demonstrate their individuality and unique selling points. This might be through their exceptional location or the ingenious training methods found in the classroom. At Find Education, Nadia relates that they place students at the heart of their teaching and ask each one to give a short presentation on what they have learned during their time at the school. The syllabus itself is centred around British culture and lifestyle and Nadia says, "We believe the students have to be exposed to the British way of life as much as possible while they are here in the UK."


Many providers have deeply embedded roots in the junior sector, having started there many years ago. Established in 1986, Xplore began with summer activity camps and Emma says they have gone from strength to strength in their offerings. "What sets us apart is the fun and engagement that we strive to keep at the heart of all our summer camps and year-round mini-stays," she notes, adding that they try and maintain personal relationships with agents and ensure that the service they offer to both students and agents is individual and tailored.


In the heart of the Mediterranean, Karl Sammut, Sales & Marketing Director at Gateway School of English (GSE) www.english-malta.com, says it is the school's location that makes it so attractive for young students. Not only is the sun often shining, but their accommodation is perfect for juniors and in a safe spot. "Our junior residence is located within a few metres from the sea with large open spaces around the premises and in a very secure location for juniors, away from the hustle and bustle of St Julian's." He points out that their host families are all located within a 10-minute walk of the school.


Increasing demand


According to our survey of agencies, the average junior business growth over the last 12 months was 13.2 per cent. Joy MacFarland, Director of Outreach at FLS International www.fls.net says that demand continues to grow at their US-based centres. "I think students are being exposed to English at younger and younger ages and parents are investing more in their children learning English at younger ages," she notes. "Our junior programmes were how we started and they have just gotten better over time." FLS offers a variety of programmes, from TOEFL camp to STEM camp to cinema and acting camps. "People are looking for more specific courses and programmes nowadays," notes Joy. "People don't fly across the globe to learn the verb 'to be' anymore."


The demand from Chinese students at FLS has noticeably increased, states Joy, a trend also witnessed at Taunton School, ILSC, and Find Education as Nadia explains, "The Chinese market is now open to their students travelling abroad to learn foreign languages and therefore value the importance of the English language for the future of their children." Emma at Xplore adds, "We have become more active in the Chinese market, which would be an indicator for the increase as well as Chinese parents becoming more comfortable with sending children abroad for language learning." As Diana Ji from Chinese agency Study Pathway confirms in our agent comment box, more parents in the country are appreciating the benefits of studying abroad, resulting in an upswing of students from China in many schools. 


Malta is currently experiencing an increase in Italian students due to the PON scholarship scheme, says Karl at GSE. But not only this, the school has also been in demand from some emerging source markets, including South America. "There are various factors fuelling such growth depending on the market," explains Karl. "For example, Italians find Malta a stone's throw away from home and thus find Malta very attractive in terms of proximity and culture, whereas other markets perceive Malta as a very safe and secure destination." He adds that there has been an "unprecedented rise" in the number of group bookings due to the recent terror attacks in the UK, France and Spain, and that safety concerns from agents, parents and students are of continuing paramount importance. 


Risk management


As more students in the younger age bracket decide to study abroad, providers are modifying their offerings to better cater for younger clients' needs. Karl says they have increased the number of school leaders accompanying groups from one to 10 students, to one to seven, "thus ensuring better supervision of groups while they are out on school organised activities". Ugo at Alpadia notes that while they take the same care and responsibility and offer 24/7 supervision for their students, "What has changed is our internal organisation towards external threats," he says. "Inspired by the British Council, we developed an exhaustive Crisis Management Plan to safeguard against any risks."


At Hokkaido Japanese Language School, Peta says that although the school's minimum student age is 14 years - a guideline in place "to ensure that we can safely care for each student" - there are a number of safeguards in place to protect teenage juniors. Although she admits there can be grey areas when it comes to this age group as Japan's age of adulthood is 20 years old, she adds, "However, as we work with mainly an international market, we use 18 as the cut off for our child protection policy." georgina@studytravel.network





Nadia Poloni, Language-in Study and Go, Spain

"Most parents tell us they prefer Ireland because of the character of the people, host families, etc. because they are much more like the Spaniards - more open and talkative. Also the cost of the programmes is normally cheaper in Ireland than the UK. Ireland has always been the top destination for junior courses. In previous years with the high GBP, it was more popular. In 2017, even when the GBP was low we had more students for Ireland than for the UK."


Diana Ji, Study Pathway, China

"More and more parents are realising that study travel programmes can help junior students to enrich their life and knowledge, so the trend is going up. The challenge we face right now is that the students' age is getting younger and younger. The youngest student we sent in 2017 was only seven years old. The UK has many very fabulous and nice boarding schools for summer junior programmes; we have met many amazing academic and activities teams. Also the historical culture, people's hospitality, and Harry Potter make the UK more and more popular."


Jarurin Chayapajuk, Wisdom House Education & Travel, Thailand

"The demand for junior programmes in New Zealand has been increasing for the past few years. Parents can normally make the decision [to study abroad] more easily when programmes are conducted in New Zealand, where it is known for safety, close proximity [to Thailand], lower budget and, most importantly, a warm welcome. It is interesting to see the demand is not just for language skills, particularly having the local experience in several areas, such as exploring natural wonders, sports, sightseeing, and doing things like the kiwis do. Living in New Zealand is very simple and easy. There is nothing for the parents to be worried about, e.g. unexpected incidents like crime or epidemic disease as the country itself is very clean and safe. The support for New Zealand education in our country is very strong, so it is no surprise to see why New Zealand is famous for junior language programmes."


Jason Liu, TransCulture International Education, China

"Firstly, a lot of parents and students think Singapore is cheaper than the UK, USA, Australia or Canada. Singapore is on the same time zone with China, so parents may call their children whenever they want during day time. The flight takes six hours from Beijing to Singapore. Singapore is the only developed and safe country in Asia whose official language is English, and 75 per cent of local people are Chinese. If students couldn't speak English well, they might communicate with them in Mandarin. And one of the Chinese traditional values is that education is the highest priority. Parents and students hope to understand western countries and Singapore can be affordable for many families. Alternatively, I do believe more and more students would like to choose the UK for their study trips because of the culture, English, historic cities, etc."


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