The ingredients for excellent activities

9th April 2019

This is probably going to turn into another blog about our heritage and history. It’s inevitable, being a relatively young company within the language school sector, that we will always draw on elements of our programme that we have been delivering the longest. We are very proud of our English teaching programme and are confident in its ability to improve children’s English language (blog about our English programme coming soon), however within a busy sector, we tend to bang our drum about our activities and the integration we achieve through them because that is what sets us apart from all the other providers.

The success of our activity programme goes deeper than just the fact that we are able to integrate international students with local British children. Ben Prior, the Varsity CEO was once upon a time (let’s be kind and not make him feel too old, it was roughly 25-ish years ago), a PE teacher at a prep school near Oxford and began running activity camps during the holiday periods. Eventually he took on a few more school venues and left teaching to set up his first activity camp business. A few years later (some 18 years ago) another PE teacher (me) joined the business and together we’ve run camps pretty much ever since.

The reason I dig back to our distant past is because our ethos, in respect of activity delivery is the same today as it was for the original business. Our drive to instruct within every activity session has served us well and set us apart from other providers within both the UK day camp market and now within the language school sector.

So what is our ethos? It’s simple really, we structure every session to ensure children are able to learn something from the activity. This is across the board no matter if the activity is within art, sport or adventure – there is always an element that our instructors can pick out for the children to learn. I fear in the last paragraph that I’ve made our activities sound in some way restrictive or regimented. That is just what comes from using the word ‘structure’ when talking about something that’s fun. The structure and learning is delivered in a subtle way and much of the time the children involved may not know that they are learning because we ensure every aspect is fun, relaxed and at a pace that keeps the children engaged. In fact, the instructors who we select to work on our camps are those with the ability to hide the structure (and to an extent the learning) and are able to set up and deliver enjoyable and exciting sessions.  

It’s not rocket science, it’s pretty simple really – take a group of children and break their session into small parts, build their knowledge and smaller skills, then bring it all together into the full activity or to complete a full project. It always amazes me when I hear stories of other providers that don’t do this and their activity programme is just seen as something to fill a gap between lessons, breaks and bedtime!

I mentioned the word ‘ingredients’ in the title and there are a couple that we mix in to make our activities excellent. A great venue that is well suited to delivering the activities, lots of activity options and excellent equipment all contribute to the activity programme. The most important ingredient however is our instructors – we work hard to find them, train them and support them to deliver activities that children love!   

So the blog did feature elements of our history and it’s always nice to look back to where we came from, however the thing that excites me each year about camp is that the same activities produce different outcomes, keeping camp fresh for everyone involved. Returning students, mixed with new students, mixed with instructors who focus on different elements or new ideas is the perfect combination for a fun, engaging, outstanding summer – I can’t wait!

Written by: Mark Vingoe, MD