Put value at the centre

To calculate the best value schools, divide quality by price. Melanie Butler shows you how the Gazette did this for Central London

Language courses in London are generally cheaper than in other major British cities. The median price per hour of a short four-week course of between 15 and 20 hours a week is £14, according to our research.

Over a quarter of all accredited private language schools in the UK capital cost between £7 and £12 an hour, around the cost of a yoga class, and all but three cost less than £24 an hour.

Since, on average, one third of all the fees on an English language travel package will go straight to the language travel agents who sent the student, the school does not have a high profit margin. But not all schools can be the same quality, so how do you get the best bang for your buck? At the Gazette we calculate value taking price per sixty minutes divided by quality. Quality is measured by the numbers of areas of strength the school is awarded by the British Council inspectors.

This enables us to create a scattergram like the one for central London schools (above). You can see the price per hour on the horizontal line and the quality, expressed in percentages, on the vertical line. The normal range for prices is between £11 and £24 and there are four outliers, two below and two above the normal price range. It’s worth noting, both schools above £24 an hour have a maximum class size of four.

Any school above the oblique line represents good value, and the further above the line, the better they are.

Of course the calculation is more complex. The quality scores, for example, are adjusted to take into account the fact that a language school cannot pass inspection if it has more than three needs for improvement noted on its inspection report.

We also take any need for improvement from the total number of areas of strength.

To establish the percentage we divide the score by the total number of areas that each school is inspected for. The prices are even more confusing.

First we have to find the fees on the website for a four-week general English course without any current discount – and if we couldn’t find the fees on the website we didn’t include the school. Then we have to add any registration fees and costs charged for buying or renting any course materials.

The next problem is that schools have different lengths of time for a class – anything between forty and ninety minutes. And since non EU students must study for a full 15 hours we have to find the nearest general English course to that figure for every single school.