"To be truly bilingual, I believe a child needs to be able to read and write in both languages, as well as being able to speak both. I also believe it offers the child choices. If they decide, at a later date to work or study in the UK, they will need their English" (SA, Jan 2013)
Sue is based in France and runs Blackhen Education, an online tutoring business for English children who want to maintain their English skills. They provide English courses for children aged 5-16, including a IGCSE English course. They work with students all over the world.
Why did you decide to set up Blackhen Education?
I decided to set up Blackhen Education because I was becoming aware of parents who were concerned that their children were forgetting how to read and write in English.
Who is it aimed at and what does it offer?
It is aimed at all children between the ages of 5- 16. We offer topic based study packs and our new Edexcel IGCSE English course. As well as the courses, we run regular competitions, recommended reading lists for key stages 1-4 and we are soon to launch our new Blackhen forum, where parents can share ideas, opinions and ideas. Above all, we aim to offer English-speaking children an opportunity to maintain and develop their reading and writing skills in their mother-tongue. We also offer topic based study packs at Key Stage 1-3 and Edexcel IGCSE English Language and IGCSE English Literature.
What is your background?
I taught Drama and English in the UK for over 20 years. I was also a Head of Department and an Edexcel Alevel examiner.
Why do you think that a good grasp of reading and writing in English is so important to English-speaking children when living abroad?
To be truly bilingual, I believe a child needs to be able to read and write in both languages, as well as being able to speak both. I also believe it offers the child choices. If they decide, at a later date to work or study in the UK, they will need their English
How does the level of written and reading English for an English-speaking child living abroad compare to a child of the same age living in the UK?
We have found that most of our English-speaking children are slightly behind their UK counterparts. But this is not a problem, we soon have them catching up. We encourage reading as well to reinforce their written and spoken English.
You offer online tuition, why do you think this works better than face to face tuition?
Online tuition is very accessible- the child can work in the privacy of their own home, at their own pace and can fit the work around their busy schedules of school and clubs.
How is the children`s work assessed?
The work is returned to us, we then mark and assess according to National Curriculum guidelines and send written feedback. We are then able to assess what level the child is working at.
Are all the teachers fully qualified?
All of our staff are fully qualified teachers and have experience of teaching in the UK and abroad.
You also have study packs, what do they offer?
The study packs are topic based, so not only is the child working on their spelling,grammar and punctuation skills, they also learn how to write for different purposes and different audiences. The packs are progressive, ensuring the child acquires all the necessary skills to start our IGCSE course if they choose. We now offer Edexcel IGCSE Maths. Details can be found on the website.
You offer regular competitions, what do they consist of and why do you think these are important?
Our competitions are free to everyone and for all age groups. We run three a year, Halloween,Christmas and Easter. We encourage children to use their creative skills and to have some fun! The winners receive prizes and their work is posted on the website.
What is the best age for a child to start with Blackhen Education?
This depends on the age of the child when they move to Italy. Some of our students have no experience of working in a British school. Some move to Italy when they are older. We would recommend that a child is settled in their new way of life in Italyfirst and then start with Blackhen.
What do the fees include?
The cost of the study packs is 30 Euros. This includes: 4xweekly lessons, marking,assessment and written feedback. For the IGCSE English course, we send an information pack to the parents with all the fees etc included.
If people are interested in your services, how should they contact you?