The London School of English - interview with Timothy Blake

23 February 2012

Quality Language Schools Worldwide

Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2012, The London School of English is a leading language school in the capital of England. The school provides high quality courses for motivated adults and for professionals, both experienced and also those just starting their careers.

We spoke to school director Timothy Blake, to find out more about London School of English’s aims, how they will be celebrating their centenary and being a member of the “IALC family”.

Q: Hello Timothy, how does it feel to be part of this exclusive group of quality language schools?

A: I have always enjoyed being part of the IALC family, with such good quality schools, sharing our experience and working in collaboration to achieve together more than we can achieve separately.

Q: How was 2011 for the school and how was it compared to the previous year?

A: It was a good year, with numbers and revenue up on the previous years.

Q: You were established in 1912. How have things changed at the school since then?

A: In almost every possible way! Remember that when were founded it was even before the First World War. The world was a completely different place. However, some things have not changed. Our founder established the school because he did not like the rigid and unimaginative way his previous school treated students. He believed that everyone is an individual, to be treated with respect and to be involved as an active partner in the learning process. That remains as true today as it was then.

Q:Have you any special plans or celebrations to mark the centenary?

A: We do indeed. Some will be quite internal - there will be a big reunion for present and past staff – some will look firmly outwards, like a big celebration for friends and partners of the school which we are planning at Kensington Palace in September. We will soon be sending out invitations for this event, which falls between the ALPHE and StudyWorld conferences, both of which we are pleased to be sponsoring this year. Whilst it is important to celebrate our successes and for everyone to have a good time, we do want our centenary to leave a more profound legacy. We will do this by supporting creative projects related to the visual arts, scholarships, sabbaticals and other initiatives which will allow us to share our expertise across our industry and the wider community.

Q: What are your main aims with for The London School English?

A: To stay the same and also to change. To continue to offer the very best quality, with courses which are designed to give the people who take them immediate and practical benefits, but at the same time to develop new ways of delivering what we do. That might be where we do it – we plan to expand our network of schools outside the UK – or how we do it, in particular how to use new technology without losing the quality and personal touch which are core to our success.

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing your school?

A: There are many. Competition is fierce, especially from the large chains. Local provision is much better than it was so we have to stress the great value in studying outside your own country. The operating environment is challenging at times – we have suffered a lot from recent UK visa changes, for example. Totally uncontrollable events can have a big impact – the exchange rate, worries about disease, safety concerns. So far we have managed to survive all these things by working hard to deliver a really dependable service to our clients and agents, and while we are always looking round to understand the big picture and to respond to the need to change, we believe that our consistency and reliability is ultimately the key to our success.

Q: Which countries do the majority of your students come from?

A: Well we are offering 22 different scheduled course types this year and the key nationalities vary a great deal according to the course that you are looking at. The ranking also depends on what you are counting – weeks, heads, income. But overall, our key markets are Switzerland, Japan, Brasil, Russia, South Korea, Italy, Germany, France and Spain.

Q: Moving on to find out more about you, which is your favourite travel destination?

A: Well in the last few years I have mostly travelled to Asia since I have been acting as our Asian sales manager. I enjoy this region very much. Following some changes at the school I will travel a bit less for work which will make me more flexible. I certainly intend to continue to go to Asia but I hope to explore lots of new places that I have never managed to visit. Closer to home I have a small house in the south of France and I do enjoy the opportunity to relax down there (but with the internet always connected, I’m sorry to say…)

Q: Your favourite pastime?

A: I love theatre and music, and I have at times managed to combine these with my work trips. So I remember with great pleasure opera performances in St Petersburg and in Rome, and when I am in Tokyo I always try to see something by Yukio Ninagawa, one of my very favourite theatre directors. Even if I don’t understand the Japanese it’s always a memorable experience. It doesn’t have to be highbrow, by the way – I love musicals too and am perhaps the only person alive who has seen both ‘A Chorus Line’ in Norwegian and Sondheim’s ‘Company’ in Catalan; I was disappointed that last year I narrowly failed to add Les Miserables in Korean.

Q: Your favourite song?

A: Oh that’s always changing. This week it’s King of Rome, by the Pet Shop Boys..

Q: Your favourite meal?

A: If favourite means the one I eat most, it must be the large bowl of raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and mango that I have for breakfast every day when I am at home. I am a fruit addict.

Q: Your dream dinner guests?

A: Confining the choice to people who are actually alive and could understand each other, perhaps Joan Baez, for her honesty and her soul, Barak Obama, as long as he promises to talk openly, Matthew Parris, an English journalist I like, to keep the conversation incisive, and several personal friends who can be guaranteed both to join in and to enjoy the revelations.

Q: Finally, what would you say are the main benefits of learning English at the London School of English?

A: Immediately usable results. We try always to offer really focussed programs that deliver highly practical benefits. At the same time, we ensure that everyone has a good time – people learn best when they are enjoying themselves.

The London School of English is the longest-established officially accredited school in Britain. Being of medium size it is small enough to provide a personal service, but large enough to have excellent facilities and resources.

There are two fine campuses close to the heart of London, each offering a variety of courses designed for serious adults. The range of courses includes general English, examination preparation, English for Business and a number of other specialised programmes.

Tel: 00 44 (0) 207 605 4123

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