Spotlight on: Maria McDonnell, Liverpool School of English

Tell us a bit about your role and how it supports the business?

As Founder & Director I have a very hands on and varied role wearing many hats on a daily basis, from making beds to hosting fam trips. I have been very  involved in all aspects of the day to day running of the school since we opened our doors over 20 years ago. This  varied role covers  all aspects of the company operationally as well as its strategic future and growth.

Our mission is to ensure that every student is safe happy and learns, succeeds and enjoys their time with us.

What has been your career highlight to date?

Seeing the school evolve and being cited as the best quality and value for money school within the UK by an industry publication and being in the top 8% of EFL schools with British Council Accreditation.

The Liverpool School of English opening in 1999 and being the first Independent English Language School in Liverpool. We offered bespoke English Language Summer School Programmes for groups of Juniors we had 170 students initially.  The growth was exponential and we very quickly became a year round school offering a diverse range of courses to students from all over the world. We now operate on four sites and welcome over 5000 students a year to Liverpool to study with us!

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

‘You don’t regret things you do only the things you don’t.’  This advice has meant we have been flexible, innovative and taken on challenges without fear.

What are the emerging trends within your sector?

The sector is going through a time of change which started with BREXIT and now has been accelerated with COVID 19, the market has matured and the challenges have changed. During the first lockdown we adapted quickly and move online and we have continued online as well as teach face to face. General English is still very much in demand but we are seeing greater demand for OET and other specialised courses for a range of ages to help future proof their lives. There has also been a seismic change in the use of technology and I am sure that in the near future we will be using VR and AR tools together in the classroom.

If you were not working in this sector what other industry would you have pursued a career in?

I had a successful career in the Engineering Industry and gave it up to realise my ambition of opening the First Independent English Language School in Liverpool I am so glad I followed the advice I was given.

What is coming up for your company in the next 12/18 months?

Over the next 12-18 months we are going to be really busy, we are planning summer schools on four sites in 2021, plus a variety of other projects such as teacher training, iGCSE courses and working in partnership with local businesses to support their international strategy.

How do you think Covid-19 will change our industry (if at all)?

COIVD has changed and touched everyone’s lives personally and professionally, people still have the desire for travel and learning and that will always be there but there are hurdles that make stakes higher than they have ever been before. With quarantine we have seen the growth of blended learning and the rise of the flipped classroom. The industry has already been affected as some schools have already closed their doors but I am optimistic that the industry is more mobile and has adapted and continues to maintain strong relationships around the world, virtually rather than face to face.

Covid-19 has had a huge impact on our industry, what is the one thing that you have learnt personally or professionally during this time?

COVID 19 has taught me that you can always plan and be prepared but you need to be prepared for the unexpected! Professionally I have learnt since lockdown 1 that you need to adapt to survive, remember and support your partners and personally that people everywhere are experiencing the same issues so we are stronger together.

Name three positives to come out of lockdown
  • The opportunity to re-evaluate and reflect on the business and the direction it is going
  • To establish new partnerships
  • Have the opportunity to get to know the students more

Find out more about BETA member Liverpool School of English here

Published 01 January 2021