05 Apr Interview with Sue Aitken, founder of Blackhen Education
Sue Aitken is based in the Charente-Maritime, France and has been running Blackhen Education since 2010. The company offers online English and British history courses to children aged 4 to 16, including IGCSE English Language and English Literature.
What is your background?
I was a Head of Department and an Edexcel A-Level examiner, with over 20 years teaching experience in Drama and English.
Why did you decide to set up Blackhen Education?
I became aware of parents living abraod who were concerned that their children were losing their English reading and writing skills. I wanted to offer a service online that allowed parents the flexibility to access it wherever they were.
Who is Blackhen Education aimed at and what does it offer?
Blackhen Education caters for English speaking children from 4 years to 16 years living outside of the UK. We offer online English and British history courses designed to follow UK National Curriculum guidelines. A child can start with us at the age of 4 and continue up to and including IGCSE.
How does the level of English skills for an English speaking child living abroad compare to a child of the same age living in the UK?
This varies from child to child, but on average they are often slightly behind their UK counterparts. This is not a problem, as we soon have them catching up.
Why do you believe online courses work better than 1:1 tuition?
Online courses are very accessible – the child can work in the privacy of their own home, at their own pace and can fit the work around their other school work. We even have several students who now take their Blackhen Education work into school.
Blackhen Education is based in France; but do you offer courses for children further afield?
When we started Blackhen Education our students initially came from across France. Since then we have grown considerably and have now acquired students from a number of other countries including The Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Morocco, Japan and Saudi Arabia.
Are all of your tutors fully qualified?
Our tutors are fully qualified and experienced British teachers. They have expertise at Foundation & Key Stage 1 (4-7 years), Key Stage 2 (7- 11 years), Key Stage 3 (11 – 14 years) and IGCSE (14 – 16 years).
What do your courses include?
Our English courses consist of 9 x monthly units (per academic year). Each unit contains 4 lessons that have a variety of tasks that develop and maintain reading and writing skills. Our British history course is a new addition and offers the child an opportunity to learn about British history.
What is the best age to start with Blackhen Education?
This depends on the age of the child when they move abroad. Some of our students have no experience of a British school. Some move abroad when they are older. We would recommend that a child is settled in their new way of life abroad first and then start with Blackhen Education.
What do the fees include?
The fees include all lesson materials, marking and written feedback.
Can you tell us about your charity work?
About 4 years ago we decided to start supporting a charity. We wanted to donate to a charity that encouraged and helped children who needed an education. Our parents were given a list of charities to choose from and they chose www.supportingdalitchildren.com This charity helps Dalit children in India have access to an education. In the 4 years since we have been supporting them, we have made monthly donations and our students have been involved with writing letters to some of the children, making Christmas and Easter cards and one year they were asked to make cotton bags for Christmas gifts.