ELC English language schools - how it all started

A black and white photo of the old teachers' lounge at ELC. The room is beautifully decorated, and small groups of teachers can be seen talking or sitting together and chatting. They all look quite serious.
An old photo of the English Language Centre's common room ceiling which is incredibly ornate.
An old photo of the English Language Centre in Brighton. You can see some old cars and a van in the photo, which is black and white.
An old photo of the English Language Centre in Brighton at the bottom of the majestic staircase. The room is now used as a snack bar.
Two teachers are immersed in their own worlds, in a break in teaching, possibly in the 1970s. The photo is black and white. They're both reading the newspaper and are really concentrating.
A lovely old black and white photo of two female teachers standing in the entrance way to the old teachers' room in ELC in Brighton. They are strongly silhouetted by the sun shining in through the windows and the relief and intricate scalloped ceiling mouldings can be seen in sharp relief.
An old photo of the English Language Centre in Brighton - the side of the building has a beautiful stained glass window.
An old photo of the English Language Centre in Brighton
An old photo of the English Language Centre in Brighton, focussing on the side entrance where the cafeteria can now be found.
An old photo of the English Language Centre in Brighton with an old double decker bus driving by.
A photo of members of the two boards of ELC Brighton and what used to be the Eastbourne School of English. Most people are formally dressed for the photo.
Members of staff are seen raising a glass of something sparkling to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ELC Brighton

We exist because of our students. From the beginning, the emphasis in teaching at the English Language Centre was on giving students the opportunity to use their English to communicate in speaking. Our students come from all over the world - more than 70 different nationalities each year. In addition to learning English language and English culture, they also communicate through English with each other, learning about different cultures and different traditions.

Overview of ELC

The English Language Centre was founded in 1962 and has been based at the same building in Palmeira Square, Brighton & Hove, where it started ever since. In 2010, ELC merged with Eastbourne School of English, founded in 1936, which was rebranded as ELC Eastbourne in 2016. In 2019, ELC acquired English in Chester, established in 1976.

All 3 schools were inspected by the British Council in 2019, with excellent results. ELC Brighton achieved 15/15 overall areas of strength - a ‘perfect score’, making it the joint No 1 language school in the UK according to EL Gazette’s review of British Council inspection published statements. English in Chester achieved 14/15 area of strength, placing it in the Top 2% of language schools in the UK, while ELC Eastbourne achieved 13/15 and in the Top 5%.

ELC Brighton - the beginnings, 1962

The original idea for the school came from Sweden when Ian Dunlop, then Director of Studies of the British Centre (part of the Folk University of Sweden) suggested the idea to Peter Hammarberg, then Rektor of Stockholm University Extra-Mural Department and of the Folk University of Sweden. Peter Hammarberg immediately started to turn the idea into a reality.

The original building at 33 Palmeira Mansions was found by John Orpen, whose wife Marianne was a member of the Board of ELC from its inception. Glen Davie was appointed Principal, a post he was to hold for the next 25 years. Ian Dunlop was Academic Director.

With a Board, a building and a Principal in place, The English Language Centre welcomed its first students in April 1962.

1972 to 1987

At first the majority of students came from Sweden but after 10 years, ELC had attracted so many students from so many different countries through the contacts built up by Glen Davie, and his wife Angela that the school needed to expand. A new building with classrooms, lecture hall and language laboratory was added on to the original one.

The school continued to expand and started to use 35 Church Road, the building opposite 33 Palmeira Mansions. The greater space allowed the introduction of Multi-media rooms, video rooms and the teaching of new types of courses. This period also saw ELC run the RSA Certificate in English Language Teaching courses for teachers (now Cambridge ESOL CELTA).

1987 - 2007

Glen Davie and Ian Dunlop retired in 1987 and Charles Harrison became Chief Executive. The school continued to expand and develop its range of courses and facilities. 31 Palmeira Mansions was acquired in 1991, and a dedicated Business Centre was established. A new Multi-Media Study Centre was opened in 2001 with a computer room including virtual language laboratory and library.

2007 - 2010

In the summer of 2007 Charles Harrison was taken ill suddenly. The two then Directors of Studies, Phil Hopkins and Peter Tamkin, assumed responsibility for ELC in his absence. When Charles retired as Chief Executive in 2010, Phil Hopkins became Principal and Peter Tamkin became Academic Director. This period saw a complete refurbishment of reception, administration and the Business Centre, together with the introduction of new technology in the form of interactive whiteboards and new courses such as CLIL.

2010

In November 2010 the charities running The English Language Centre and Eastbourne School of English merged to become one charity running the two schools. Phil Hopkins became Chief Executive and Peter Tamkin became Group Academic Director with overall management responsibility for both schools. They oversaw further investment in infrastructure, training and resources at both centres and an expansion of the scholarship schemes.

2012

In 2012 the Brighton school celebrated its 50th anniversary. The guest of honour at the main 50th birthday celebrations was Glen Davie who set up and ran the school for the first 25 years. ELC gained top marks ‘grade 1 - exceeds expectations’ in its first educational oversight inspection by ISI (Independent Schools Inspectorate) jointly with its partner school Eastbourne School of English.

2014

In keeping with its history and ethos, The English Language Centre continued to develop. A technology strategy saw significant investment in technology in the classroom at both centres with the introduction of class sets of iPads, SMART TVs, projectors and Apple TV installed in many classrooms. Sadly 2014 also saw the passing away of 2 well-loved and important people in the history of ELC, Robert O’Neill, whose association with ELC went back to the 1970s, and Glen Davie, the founding principal of ELC.

2015

The quality of the school and its development continued to be recognised by external accrediting bodies. A monitoring visit by ISI in May found the school continued to ‘exceed expectations’ in all categories. In the British Council inspection in June 2015, the school achieved 12 out of a possible total of 15 ‘areas of strength’. This made ELC ‘a centre of excellence’ and the top-ranked language school in Brighton and in the top 4% of schools in the UK, according to EL Gazette’s review of British council inspection reports.

As part of the technology strategy the first Activboards were installed.

2016

2016 was a busy year. A full inspection by ISI in May saw the school once again achieve top marks. The inspection report used the word ‘excellent’ 41 times to describe the school. 2016 also saw a re-brand of the 2 schools run by The English Language Centre, with new websites, a new joint brochure and new logos.

2017

Following on from the re-branding of the schools the year before, 2017 saw the launch of a brand new website featuring both schools

2019

This was another memorable year for ELC for 3 major reasons:

  • the completion of major refurbishments of the schools in Brighton and Eastbourne that was begun the previous year.
  • excellent British Council inspection results. ELC Eastbourne was inspected in April and achieved 13/15 overall area of strength, while ELC Brighton achieved 15/15 - a ‘perfect score’ in its inspection in July.
  • the acquisition of English in Chester - another top-ranked English language school that had achieved 14/15 areas of strength in its BC inspection in May.

2020 - 2022

2020 was another memorable year for a very different reason! The covid-19 pandemic took hold. In March, the UK went into lockdown, and the schools temporarily closed for face-to-face lessons. Many students returned to their own countries, and ELC continued to teach the remaining students online via Zoom. Sadly, ELC chair of governors, Peter Orpen, was an early victim of the pandemic.

The 3 schools, overseen by a Senior Management Team consisting of Phil Hopkins, Chief Executive, Nigel Paramor, Principal in Chester and John Veale, Centre Manager in Eastbourne, faced many difficult decisions.

In August 2020, the Brighton and Chester schools re-opened for face-to-face lessons, with Eastbourne re-opening in June 2021. There were many travel restrictions, and consequently, the number of students at each school was low.

During these 2 years many long-serving staff at the 3 schools retired including:

  • Brighton – Peter Tamkin, Janice Martin, Mike Foy, Penny Moon and Julia Sandiford
  • Chester – Richard Day, Hannah Day, Sam Sansom, Patsy Tyrer, Dave Sawtell
  • Eastbourne – Rolf Donald

At the end of February 2022, the final covid restrictions in the UK ended, and the schools had a strong recovery as students started to travel again.

2023

The 3 schools saw a strong recovery and continued to grow. English in Chester was rebranded as ELC Chester, and a new website was launched.

ELC Eastbourne - the beginnings, 1936

Eastbourne School of English was established in the summer of 1936 by Miss Frances Batchelor. She had the dream of encouraging young people to learn the English language and to build friendships between the nations of the world. Miss Batchelor was well travelled and was a member of the United Nations Association.

The school moved to its present building at Graham House, 8 Trinity Trees, in 1947. At first, the school took only girls, and the students had bedrooms in the building.

In 1960 the school became a founder member of ARELS, the Association of Recognised English Language Schools, and in 1966, under Henry Savill, the next Principal, the school became a Charitable Educational Trust.

1970s

Robert Angelo was the Principal in the 1970s, a boom time for English language courses in the UK. He modernised the building, installing a language laboratory and adding an extra floor to the school. “School House” in Carlisle Road, Eastbourne, became his home and was also used as a residence for students.

Dorothy Rippon joined the school at this time, first as a Social Organiser, then teacher and Director of Studies. When Mr Angelo retired due to ill health, she took over as Principal in 1980.

1980 - 2010

Dorothy Rippon took over as principal in 1980, a post she held for the following 20 years. During this time, she introduced our popular Fifty Plus courses for mature students.

In 1985 the building in Lismore Road was purchased so that all students could be taught in the centre of Eastbourne. The lower ground floor was converted into a large Learning Centre where students can study independently.

Dave Russell was Director of Studies from 1985 to 2005, and the school offered teacher training courses for Cambridge CTEFLA and DTEFLA.

Many of our long-serving teachers joined during this period.

In 2000 Graham White became Principal when Dorothy Rippon retired. He held this post until his own retirement in December 2010.

2010

In November 2010, the charities running The English Language Centre and Eastbourne School of English merged to become one charity running the two schools. Phil Hopkins became Chief Executive, and Peter Tamkin became Group Academic Director with overall management responsibility for both schools. They have overseen a big investment in infrastructure, training and resources at both centres and an expansion of the scholarship schemes.

2012

A new website was launched, and the school gained top marks ‘grade 1 - exceeds expectations’ in its first educational oversight inspection by ISI (Independent Schools Inspectorate) jointly with its partner school ELC Brighton.

2013

January saw the arrival of a new Academic Manager, Jenny Johnson, who brought a wealth of experience of academic management and whose appointment reflected the school’s enduring commitment to the very highest educational standards. She joined Rebecca Willis, Administration and Marketing Manager, in overseeing the day-to-day management of the school. July very sadly saw the passing of Graham Smith a much-loved teacher who had been at the school for 25 years. In his memory, the school set up the Eastbourne School of English Graham Smith IATEFL Scholarship that supports the attendance of an overseas teacher at the annual IATEFL Conference in the UK.

2014

The school continued to experience a renaissance with an increase in student numbers and significant investment in facilities for staff and students. A technology strategy saw significant investment in technology in the classroom at both centres with the introduction of class sets of iPads, SMART TVs, projectors and Apple TV installed in many classrooms. The exteriors of both school buildings were lovingly refurbished.

2015

A monitoring visit by ISI in May found the school continued to ‘exceed expectations’. In June, the British Council inspection awarded the school strengths in 8 out of 15 areas, much higher than the average of 3 for British Council schools and recognises ESOE as one of the top schools in the UK. As part of the technology strategy, the first Activboards were installed.

2016

On Saturday, 30th April, Eastbourne School of English held a party to celebrate its 80th birthday. The party was attended by the Eastbourne mayor, the local Member of Parliament, members of the board of governors, current and former staff, host families, students and friends of ESOE. The school also launched a scholarship scheme of 80 weeks of scholarships to commemorate the school’s foundation.

In May, a new website was launched with many new features, such as live chat, mobile-friendly responsive design, and social media feeds.

2019 - 2023

In 2019 a number of key things happened:

  • the completion of major refurbishment of the main school buildings including the teachers’ room and staffroom, student lonuge and student kitchen in the main school building of Trinity Trees.
  • ELC Eastbourne achieved 13/15 areas of strenth in its British Council inspection
  • Jenny Johnson retired as Academic Manager and her assistant Chris Robinson was appointed as the new Academic Manager.

2020 to 2022 was a difficult period due to the covid pandemic and Rold donald, a long-serving member of staff retired during this time.

2024

More than 80 years after it was founded, Eastbourne School of English, now rebranded as ELC Eastbourne, is still encouraging people to learn the English language and to build friendships between students from the nations of the world.

ELC Chester – the beginning 1976

1976

English in Chester started life as the sister school of the Stratford-upon-Avon School of English Studies and became part of the Ethos Schools group. A Japanese group asked for a summer course in Chester, and with Richard Day as Principal, they decided to continue in Chester.

1984

The first vacation course for teenagers ran with students from all over the world.

1985

English in Chester became an independent company and acquired the school and its buildings in Stanley Place, where it is still located today.

1989

Stanley Place, where the school is based, was restored to its Georgian elegance and re-opened by the Sheriff and Mayor of Chester.

1991

The school welcomed its first 50+ group of students. The 50+ course has gone on to be one of the more popular courses run in Chester.

1994

Richard Day set up English in the North, a regional consortium of language schools, colleges and universities to help promote English courses in the north of England.

1995

The Language Training Centre opened across the other side of Stanley Place. This provided the base for our courses for Business and Professional people.

1998

The school’s first website went live, designed by Nick Day (Richard’s son), who was only 13 at the time.

2001

The school celebrated its 25th birthday with staff and teachers from past and present the same year Harriet Parker became Academic Principal, having previously been a teacher at the school.

2002

Technology improvements came to the school with the first computers for students

2006

The website was redesigned, winning 2 regional awards for its ease of use and accessibility.

2007

English in Chester joined IALC and attended its first workshop in Cape Town.

2009

A state-of-the-art digital language laboratory was installed.

2010

The English Network – TEN – is launched with English in Chester as a founding member.

2012

The 25+ course was launched and it continues to be one of our most popular courses.

2015

English in Chester achieved 14 out of 15 areas of strength in its British Council inspection. As with the previous 2 inspections, the results were excellent and the the school was ranked amongst the very best Uk “Centres of Excellence”.

2016

English in Chester celebrated its 40th birthday – 40 years of friendships, meeting and communicating with people from all over the world.