I was reading an article in the EL Gazette recently which claimed that Bristol was the city with the highest ratio of Centres of Excellence (according to the British Council’s inspection reports), with 50% of its schools achieving this distinction. “Hang on a minute!”, I thought, “What about Worcester?!” – 100% of its BC accredited schools are Centres of Excellence. OK so Kingsway English Centre is in a class of its own, being the only accredited school & the only Centre of Excellence in the city. But still.
The advantages of being the only ELT centre (accredited or otherwise) in the city are obvious. For a start our streets are not congested with language travel tourists. Or any tourists really. Kingsway’s students are treated as valued and interesting visitors. They get bought drinks in the local pubs! This has never happened to me mind you; I think you have to look foreign and interesting. We can be really picky and snobbish about homestays and only use the “best” families in the “nicest” areas of the city. And of course they have to be within walking distance of Kingsway. If schools in the famous centres knew that we have a waiting list of homestays wanting to host for us, they would be sick with envy. If those same schools knew that all our homestays are in competition with each other to get the best feedback from their students, they would probably open a branch in Worcester. And we don’t want that.
So why does the lovely, typically English city of Worcester have such a low profile? Is it because the pronunciation of the name causes problems: Wor-chester? War-cester? Even our American cousins, who have their own Worcester in Massachusetts, can’t always manage to pronounce it correctly. So it was no surprise when, many years ago, one of our students thought she had got on a train to Worcester but ended up in Chester. Well that’s what happens when you get your stress and your pronunciation wrong. The English take no prisoners.
Worcester clearly didn’t have a low profile back in the day or our 1,000 year old cathedral would never have got planning permission. And bad old King John (he who was a tad reluctant to sign the Magna Carta in 1215) would never have chosen to be buried here unless he’d felt it suitable for a monarch. Albeit a dead one. Another dead royal joined King John when poor Prince Arthur died in his teens thus changing the course of history BIG TIME. His premature death in 1502 opened the way for his younger brother, Henry, to become England’s most famous King. Henry VIII is best remembered for divorcing or beheading 5 of his 6 wives, annoying the Pope, starting the Church of England and being overweight & ginger.
But the city’s historic connections aren’t limited to bad, sickly and obese medieval monarchs as it was also a very popular place to have a battle during the English Civil War in the 17th Century. Worcester branded itself “The Faithful City” as it supported the King in his struggle against Parliament. Unfortunately we backed a loser as not only did Charles I lose most of the various battles but he also lost his head. Literally. But we stuck with being a royalist city and, despite being on the wrong side in the Battle of Worcester in 1651, we eventually ended up on the right side when Charles II became King. Yay! Worcester still brands itself “The Faithful City” but most local people are probably a bit vague about who or what we are faithful to.
History is all very well but most visitors can only take so much before they start craving quirky coffee shops, lovely places to lunch & fabulous photo opportunities. Tick, tick, tick. They might not crave a river but they get one & not just any river but the longest river in England! A river that floods so dramatically in some years that TV crews and “flood tourists” swell the city’s population for a few weeks. The Severn rolls through the city, past the race-course, past our golden-domed, award-winning library, past our 21st century university & the “loveliest cricket ground in England”, past our magnificent cathedral and on towards Bristol – a city where only 50% of its schools are centres of excellence!