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Chelsea Language Academy

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Despite Recession, H1N1 and Visa Changes, Toronto English School Chelsea is Thriving: Lessons for Others

Toronto, Canada, December 04, 2009 --( For many English schools around the world there seems to have been a perfect storm that has raged over the past year. Economic woes, a flu pandemic and, in some cases, tighter visa requirements have posed serious challenges for the language travel market. However, one Toronto school, Chelsea Language Academy, has seen its enrollment actually increase.

Robbie McMullan, Chelsea’s principal, explains how his school has managed to do so well during such trying times: “Many schools hire relatively inexperienced, uncommitted English teachers because they can get them for a cheap hourly wage." McMullan sees this as shortsighted as it eventually damages your reputation among students and partners. Instead, Chelsea pays a premium to attract and retain top talent.

"We probably would have grown faster", says McMullan, "if the world recession and swine flu had not hit, and if the Canadian government had not suddenly revoked visa-waiver status for Mexican visitors. However, we can’t really complain because a lot of other schools, especially the larger ones, have shrunk during this period."

McMullan posits one important reason for this, asserting that “overhead at the bigger schools is dangerously high: the bigger they get, the higher the administrative cost per student as complexity necessarily grows. This means two things, essentially: 1. The big schools need to have more students per class to compensate for higher administrative costs (thus reducing each student’s language learning) and 2. Their size also makes it much harder to attend to students' requests. “Chelsea’s long-term philosophy, stresses McMullan, is for each school location to remain small. “Once we reach capacity in Toronto, we won't expand and become a huge school here like some of our competitors have done. We’d rather just duplicate the small school model in other cities.

Further, he says, “unlike a lot of schools, we have focused on building our reputation locally to attract students disatisfied with the big schools and even some of our small-school peers here in Toronto. Most of our students come to us either by word of mouth from former students or from local education agencies. So, we’re not dependent on overseas agencies like a lot of our competitors are, especially the larger ones." McMullan expects a lot more big schools around the world will go out of business due to this dependence, which leaves them open to sudden downturns in travel.

Robbie McMullan is principal of Chelsea Language Academy, a fast growing English school in Toronto, Canada that he originally founded in 1993 in Tokyo and reestablished in Canada in 2007. Mr. McMullan is a highly experienced language teacher, writer and alumnus of Harvard University.

Contact Information
Chelsea Language Academy
Robbie McMullan
Additional Contact: Ms. Jin Park. 1+ 416 322 0008

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