Torquay International School - Interview with Judith Hands

15 March 2012

Quality Language Schools Worldwide

Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2012, TIS is a leading language school on the South West coast of England, known as the “English Riviera”. The school provides courses for adult students in general, professional and business English.

We spoke to the school’s Managing Director, Judith Hands, to find out more about TIS’s aims, how they will be celebrating their anniversary and being a member of the “IALC family”.

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

A: Since we joined IALC 11 years ago we haven’t looked back. It has been, quite simply, a revelation. Having been isolated amongst mostly the Brit schools beforehand, I suddenly discovered this wonderful world of other languages, news ways of doing things, tremendous professionalism and it has been just fantastic to be a part of the IALC family.

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

A: It was a good year and certainly better than 2010.

Q: You were established in 1972. How have things changed at the school since then?

A: Well in 1972 we were owned by SAS the Scandinavian Airline System and five of us formed a management buyout in 1979 when SAS pulled out of language travel. So from big owners to small new beginnings we had to do a lot to find our markets. My partners were all much older than I and so I am the sole owner now and continue to do all I have ever wanted to do, which is just provide good quality courses in a beautiful area with great accommodation.

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

A: Oh I think so, for a start we are having a Garden Party at the school in June – that’ a really British thing to do and it will be in aid of the Save the Children charity. We’ll be celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee at the same time – so that will be something for our students. Then for ourselves I hope to have a modest little event… sometime around October for all our old pals.

Q: What are your main aims with for TIS?

A: To retain our independence and continue as a boutique school whilst keeping agents and students happy with what we offer them.

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing independent schools these days?

A: As a medium-sized independent we can’t always offer the same deals or do as much marketing as the bigger operators but I think that being an independent these days means a lot to many of our agents and so that’s a positive point and IALC is essential to us as one of our main marketing drives. Finding time to stay in touch and keep up with trends and new regulations and the awful UKBA is tough for a manager in a smaller school these days. However, membership of English UK and the TEN Network help to resolve those difficult areas for me.

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

A: Central European countries have always been amongst our main providers.

Q: What are the most popular student activities?

A: Without doubt the Great Dartmoor Walk on a Sunday is no. 1 with our older clients and the executives. Folk night, international food night and the Christmas Party are the tops with General English students. They also like trips to Cornwall and to Agatha Christie country.

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

A: Italy and then the Trois Vallees in France for skiing

Q: Your favourite pastime?

A: Skiing when I get the time, but I love cooking for friends.

Q: Your favourite song?

A: This one is easy – it’s Hey Jude – what else! .

Q: Your favourite meal?

A: Tricky, there are so many things I love. For English food it’s slowly roasted belly pork with lots of crispy crackling and apple sauce but my favourite non-English dish is Osso Bucco with Risotto alla Millanese – come on over and I’ll cook it for you.

Q: Your dream dinner guests?

A: Frank Bell, founder of the Bell Schools was a real hero of mine. He will add a note of gravitas.

My best friend Gill (50 years of friendship this year) and her husband really know how to make the party go with a swing and they have lots of funny stories.

Ewa Szenfeld from Alfa in Stuttgart is a great cook so she can help me and we will gossip and giggle hopelessly as we cook. We’ve worked together since 1980 or thereabouts.

Natasha from Russia – our first Russian agent who is now a lecturer in Business Studies in the UK and one of my oldest friends – she will give a note of intelligence and academia to the party (and she’s a great cook too.

Paolo Conte because he’s such a sexy old Italian and his singing makes my toes curl. He’s Piemontese so he will love good food and he can sing for his supper.

Sophia Loren and Cary Grant would also be top of the list to add some wit and glamour to the evening.

And then I’d like to add all the great friends, students, schools and agents alike that I have made on this industry over the years – there are so many lovely people in this business. We’ll probably need an IALC Gala dinner venue to fit them all in.

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

A: Meeting our staff! About 50% of us have been here between 15 to 30 years – they are a fantastic team, loyal, hard-working and they share a great sense of humour with each and with our students too. As well as the great courses we have a really wide choice of really good accommodation and I think that is essential today as today’s students are very demanding and want good food, good facilities and comfort.

TIS is located just a few minutes on foot from Torquay town centre and is surrounded by large gardens and a volley ball court. Its own hotel residence, Club TIS is opposite the school.

TIS believes passionately in the quality of the school, the courses and the accommodation that is offered to students.

Tel: 00 44 (0) 1803 298854/ 295576

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