Simple English ~ Nicola Prentis

Thoughts on ELT, English and whatever else comes into my head

The A-Z of Summer School, Part II

For A-K go here



Like trying to cram infinity inside a toothpaste tube, no Summer School induction will ever fit everything in. Keeping people’s attention for a whole day of input is tough. I think after the six years of them I’ve attended and contributed to as Academic Consultant, we’ve finally cracked the perfect balance of practical information and ethos inclusion.

There are parts no-one listens to because they think they know it, like Health & Safety. And then someone pulls their back lifting a child’s suitcase or brings fire hazard electrical items with all the wiring falling out which get confiscated by the cleaners. Induction is the point where the recruitment guy alternates between sighs of relief and cold chills as he realises people have turned up but some of them were so much more human sounding on the phone.



On door handles.

This is the first and last time I managed to get a confession out of a student by hauling the entire student body into a meeting and making them sit there until someone owned up. (The poo smearers never do) What a triumph and full credit to him (yes, of course it was a boy) for admitting it in front of everyone!

We now have to make sure no little jam packets leave the dining hall as there are lots of tempting places to put it when you think about it if you’re a 13 year old male. This wouldn’t be necessary if we could have proper jam in jars instead of  taste free, fruit imitating gels in two slice rationed packs.



Teenagers are so bad at it, it makes you pleased to be old. The launch and chew, then look the opposite way while maintaining a tight grip is Generation Snapchat’s favourite. The washing machine I remember as a teenager seems to be as out of fashion as hooded tops. Is this an improvement? I can’t tell and never want to find out.



Bed lists, class lists, house lists, registers, fire lists, Activities sign ups, staff mobile lists, Day Off rotas, Duty rotas, check lists, To Do lists. There’s one governing every aspect of your life at all times. If there isn’t, you’re not doing the job right.

Log ons

There are almost as many of these as there are lists and most of them won’t work. Double barrelled names fare particularly badly with whoever sets them up, siblings with the same first initial do even worse. In summer, I have five different log ons and counting. It takes about 2 weeks before I stop trying to sign into my Real World email with a Summer School one.



You hope you’ve recruited good Summer School Managers but good + appropriate qualifications/experience is all too often held hostage to the more salient factor – available. Hence the ones we’ve had that can’t even cut and paste into Excel, take Stalin as their role model or insist on being addressed as Doctor even though they haven’t got either medical training or a Phd. The world is full of oddballs. Many of them apply for positions beyond their capacity and a surprising number reapply even after a disastrous season where there was mass staff revolt and they were on formal warnings.


English kids are satisfied with a Strepsil and some attention for Bubonic Plague. Foreigners need an appointment with a consultant and intervention at a cellular level for a sore throat. Russians and Spaniards in particular must be completely immune to antibiotics by the age of twelve because they take them for everything. Their parents practically threaten legal action if you don’t take their children to the hospital when they have a cold.

I wish I was exaggerating for effect but I’m really not. One summer I had two Russian girls with colds whose parents sent a consultant from London because I wouldn’t give them more than cough medicine and paracetamol. He didn’t prescribe anything either which will only have reinforced the parents’ opinion that UK medical knowledge hasn’t advanced beyond the 15th Century.


See lists because there are just as many of them. It’s impossible to have one with every staff member present. They should read the minutes, but by the time they’re typed up, there’s  another meeting to attend.



Having a school nurse is a life saver. Not for the kids, for whom there’s usually nothing seriously wrong, but for the Centre Director and Welfare Manager who otherwise have to deal with them. Unfortunately the nurses are rarely on shift when someone spills boiling tea on their wobbly bits, nor when the dressing on their blistered foreskin needs changing.

This year we have a severe shortage of nurses for a plethora of reasons. I’ve just learned about epi pens. A child might collapse right in front of me because they are having their first allergic reaction to something and epi pens are only available on prescription. I am afraid. Very afraid.



As a manager, you can tell which staff are happy and good whole school team members by whether they drop by the main office ever. Some staff manage to avoid it for an entire summer, never saying goodbye on their day off or seeing if any managers want to go to the pub after shift. They then develop this irrational fear of management and the Them and Us mentality that’s so damaging to a Summer School starts to encroach.

I always try and host some sort of gathering, enticing people with Cheese & Biscuits (no alcohol allowed on site), and then ensuring hilarity with a fun game. It really is fun, honestly, and I won’t notice at appraisal time if you didn’t come.



Most students are lovely. The ones who are not have even worse parents. Homophobia, rascism and bullying at a young age surely must get learned at home. Parents can be very, very VIP in their own countries and act like spoiled brats. A Spanish premiere league player’s kids needed to leave earlier than scheduled. Their PA organised it all, even though we are perfectly capable of co-ordinating this ourselves. She was on the phone all morning to us checking everything.

It was her wedding day.

Then there are others who should be nightmares but aren’t. One year we had the Portuguese equivalent of Beckham drop his kids off himself. He cheerfully put up with other kids taking photos of him while comforting one of his tearful girls and only gave them £50 pocket money per week. His supermodel wife came with him to collect them and she was equally nice.

Pocket Money

Take whatever you earn for the whole summer and it’ll be a fraction of what some kids bring as spending money for two weeks. If people realised how much money students, mostly from non EU visa countries, bring into the UK to splurge in our economy, the Daily Mail would run totally different immigration stories.  I’ve seen kids cry down the phone to their parents for more money before their last excursion and get wired £1000 to spend on paddling pools, toy cars and a new suitcase to take it back in.



It’s a cliche to say students learn as much about queuing as English when they come to the UK. |On the contrary, they just bring their own flavour to this British pastime. Lots of fights happen in the queues which makes for plenty of free time being taken away later. In Activities and free time, students have more control over who they’re next to, even in class to a certain extent. But position in a queue is dictated by the far more pressing concern of being first, so suddenly those kids that don’t get on have to co-exist.

Cue punching in the stomach of one boy for saying something bad about another boy’s mother (oh,look,  it’s boys again). Cue a million arguments about pushing in. Cue injuries sustained while running to be at the front. We rota at least two people onto queue duty out of pure Armageddon prevention.

R-Z here


2 comments on “The A-Z of Summer School, Part II

  1. Pingback: The A-Z of Summer School, Part I | Simple English ~ Nicola Prentis

  2. Pingback: The A-Z of Summer School, Part III | Simple English ~ Nicola Prentis

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This entry was posted on July 1, 2014 by in Summer School.
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