Our 20th anniversary – it’s getting nearer!

At the end of this week we’ll have a party in Glasgow School of English to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the School opening to students.  There will be cake, soft drinks, possibly some champagne, a balloon or two – and some guests who have been great friends to us over the years.  We’ll have some photos and an interview with Andrew Lennox, the School’s President and founder as well as a surprise or two!

The fact the School has been so successful is due to the hard work of everyone concerned, from Andrew himself to Vicki, the Director of Studies, all the admin staff and, of course, our fantastic teachers.  How do we know they are fantastic?  Simple, our students tell us!

We conduct interviews with students at the end of each term to ask them what they think of the classes and the School in general.  Last term (April – June), the results were even better than usual.  100% of the students who responded said they would recommend the  School, while 97% either agreed or agreed strongly that the lessons met their needs and 96% believed their English has improved as a result of studying here.  We think that, as well as our 20th anniversary, is something to celebrate!

Some unusual Scottish “Traditions” – Tossing the Caber

This is definitely one of the most peculiar Scottish activities! Tossing the caber is one of the sports that take place at a Highland Games event. If you come to study here during our summer you may be able to go to a Highland Games. Highland Games, which originated in the Scottish Highlands and are now celebrated all over the world, are a wonderful day out, involving Highland dancing, bagpipe music and various athletic events. We’ll write about Highland Games in another blog soon.

Tossing the caber is a ‘heavyweight’ sport. It’s for large, very strong men, who have to pick up and then ‘toss’ a long, very heavy wooden pole, called a caber. In fact, it’s a tree trunk that has been cut and had the branches trimmed off it. The length of the caber can be from 16 feet to 22 feet (about 4.8 – 6.7 metres). One end is trimmed so that it’s slightly smaller than the other.

The caber is held upright and the thrower cups his hands under the end and lifts it up vertically, before ‘tossing’ it forwards. It’s not a question of throwing it as far as you can: you also have to try to ‘toss’ it so it goes in a straight line in front of you (imagine it going straight out like 12.00 on a clock). Marks are awarded for how straight you toss it. The distance it goes is not actually important and no marks are awarded for this.

It’s also very difficult, as this YouTube video, from a Highland Games in Nova Scotia in Canada, shows!






We are (nearly) 20 years old!

There is a BIG anniversary coming up soon!  Glasgow School of English will be 20 years old very soon.

It was around this time, back in 1997, that our first students, who were from China, began their classes at Glasgow School.  Since then, we’ve grown into a truly international school, helping thousands of students from all around the world to improve their English language skills.  Every year, we teach hundreds of students and improve their English language skills and help them achieve their academic or career goals.

This year is special though, because, it’s our 2oth anniversary and to celebrate we’re holding a party in the School on  the 1st of September. If you are one of our current students, watch out in the School for more information.  If you are considering coming to study in Scotland, keep an eye on this blog, our Facebook page and our Twitter account for more information about what’s going to happen!

Welcome to our new agent from Taiwan



A warm welcome to Jocelyn Lin
– our new Agent from Taiwan!

Although we know that a lot of our students Google us and find out more information about the School from our website, we also know that a lot of our students come to us from agents in their  home countries.   That’s why we are always pleased when we start to work with a new agent.

Andrew Lennox, the School’s President, recently met with Jocelyn Lin, our latest agent in Taiwan, in our Edinburgh office.

Jocelyn told Andrew, “Please accept my great gratitude for all your kind help. I do appreciate it and am very much looking forward to co-operating with you and your Schools.”

Thank you Jocelyn – we are really looking forward to working with you and we hope that we’ll see some students arriving from Taiwan to study at our Schools in Scotland in the very near future.


Some unusual Scottish ‘Traditions’ – haggis hurling

Most people who come to study at Glasgow School of English know that haggis is the one food for which Scotland is most famous. For those who don’t know, a haggis (several haggis are pictured here) is a sort-of sausage, a minced mixture of sheep heart, lung, oatmeal and seasoning wrapped in a sheep’s stomach. It’s definitely not suitable for vegetarians, but for those who do eat meat it is very tasty indeed. However, not many of our students know that we do other things as well as eat it!

Haggis hurling is exactly what it sounds like – hurling (throwing) a haggis. Although it has been claimed to be an ancient ‘sport’, in reality it is a modern invention, going back to the 1970s when an advert was placed in a newspaper at the time of the Gathering of the Clans (historic family groups under the same name, such as the Clan MacLeod or the Clan Campbell) in Edinburgh. This advert announced a ‘revival’ of the ancient Scottish sport of haggis hurling. The intention was simply to see who can throw a haggis the furthest.

Nowadays, there is even a World Haggis Hurling Championship, with all the money earned going to charity. The ‘sport’ has strict rules: the haggis must be cooked and of a specific weight; it must be inspected to make sure it is a proper haggis, with all the traditional ingredients; and when it has been thrown it must remain intact when it lands.

The most recent annual competition took place in Ayrshire, south of Glasgow, at the place where Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, was born. This year it was in January and a new world record was set, as you can see in this YouTube video. Haggis hurling has become famous in different countries, with Canada and Australia also holding competitions. Even if you don’t manage to see haggis hurling competition taking place when you are studying in Scotland, you should (unless you are a vegetarian or vegan), try to eat it at least once when you are here!

Some unusual Scottish “Traditions” – the Moffat Sheep Race!

The town of Moffat in the Scottish Borders (south of Edinburgh and Glasgow and north of the border with England) has a long-standing association with sheep. The hills around Moffat have lots of farms with lots of sheep and there is even a huge statute of a ram (a male sheep) in the town’s Market Place.

A few years ago, it was decided to have an annual sheep race through the streets of the town and this has proved so popular that many visitors come to see it. As well as the sheep race, which you can see on this YouTube video, there is a farmers’ market where local produce is sold.

The sheep race with knitted jockeys on their backs and there are several races held before the winners in each of these compete in a Grand Final. The ‘jockeys’ are very colourful creations, as you can see in the video. Some people place bets on which sheep they think will win (which we think must be a real lottery!) and the whole event is a great day out.

This year’s Sheep Race is being held on the 13th of August and you can find more details on the official website and Facebook page.  If you would like to go to see the Sheep Race, Moffat is just over an hour’s journey from Glasgow



Some unusual Scottish “Traditions” – the Deep Fried Mars Bar

Most people across the world know the Mars Bar (see picture above). It was “invented” in 1932, in the town of Slough, England, by an American called Forrest Mars. Since then it has become one of the most popular snack bars or sweets (or candy bars as the Americans call them) in the world.

People in Scotland are famous for having a “sweet tooth” (this means we like sweet, sugary foods) so Mars Bars are very popular here. However, in 1995, a fish and chip* shop in Stonehaven, in north-east Scotland, decided to deep-fry Mars Bars and sell them to customers. This means coating the Mars Bar in batter (a mixture of flour, eggs and milk) and then frying them under very hot fat or oil (see picture below).

Although these Deep Fried Mars Bars attracted a lot of publicity in local newspapers they never really became very popular until they began to attract the attention of big newspapers and TV stations. The combination of sugar, chocolate and deep-frying means that they are VERY unhealthy (and very sweet and sticky). You can get them at a number of fish and chip shops, especially in Edinburgh, and while we wouldn’t actually recommend them, one probably will not do you too much harm. However, be aware that some fish and chip shops use beef fat to deep-fry their products.


* If you haven’t had fish and chips, most of our students love them!


Photos from Wikipedia

The honest truth about Glasgow School of English (according to our students).

When students and agents are considering which school of English to study at in the UK, they take many different things into account. They want to know: is the school accredited, is it in a big city, does it have a programme of events and activities, is it a cheap place to live and study and, of course, does it have a good reputation for the quality of its facilities and teachers?

It’s easy for any school to make claims about the city in which it’s based, or its programme of activities, but important as these are, the key factor in any decision to come to the UK to learn English is the quality of the school and the teaching it provides. Reputations are hard won, and equally hard to maintain.

Glasgow School of English has a full round of official inspections, but we also ask our students to fill in a quarterly survey, where they can be as honest as they like about their experiences with us.

Our last survey covers the first quarter of 2017, from January to March, and we’re delighted to say that we have received excellent reviews and comments from our students. The full details are shown below, but perhaps the most important one for anyone thinking about coming to learn English in Scotland is that 98% of our students would recommend us.

Some students added comments. A representative sample of these is shown below.

“The office staff are very kind.”

“My class size with 8-10 students is good”

“The location in Glasgow is perfect!”

“Thank you for everything.”

“It was a great experience to be here. Thank you and best wishes.”

“It was a pleasure to have met you and I look forward to see you again.”

“I appreciate the school. All was very well. I’m looking forward to come back.”

“I think I will come back in the future.”

“Here I met wonderful people who I’d like to keep in touch forever!”

“I’m really sad to leave! And I will spend 15 days travelling in Scotland. We had an amazing IELTS teacher (I got 7/9).


Korea to Cádiz – we have students from all over the world!

Hye Yeong Hwang comes from Seoul in South Korea. Julio Sanchez comes from Cádiz but works in Sevilla in southern Spain. Both of them are pictured here and are studying at Glasgow School of English. I met with them in the School and we had an interesting chat about what they think about Glasgow, Scotland and the School in general.

Neither had visited Scotland before, but Hye Yeong’s husband had studied for an MBA at Strathclyde University (probably the best Business School in Scotland and one of the best in the UK) so she came here six months ago and her English is improving a lot. Julio had only studied English for one year at school in Spain and has only been at Glasgow School for a week, but his English too is improving considerably.

Both of them agreed that one of the big attractions of Glasgow as a place to study is that it’s a lot cheaper than London and some of the other big cities in England. They also agreed that the teachers at Glasgow School are very good. Julio explained how his teacher is helpful, friendly and uses great examples to help him improve his English. “The hour in the classroom goes very quickly”, he said, “and that is because the class is interesting and fun”.

Hye Yeong agreed, telling me “my teacher is kind and friendly too and when I don’t understand a word she helps me learn it”.

Julio and Hye Yeong told me that when they studied English in their own countries, there was a focus on grammar rather than actually speaking. Here, they said, it’s great to be able to practise speaking in the classroom.

I asked what they knew about Scotland before they arrived. Hye Yeong said, “whisky and golf”! She plays golf and she knew that Scotland, and in particular St Andrews, is famous as the “home of golf”. Julio said the weather is “different” from southern Spain but he finds Glasgow a beautiful city and he has enjoyed visits to the Cathedral and to the Riverside Museum and Tall Ship. You can see pictures of these trips on our Facebook page.

Finally, I asked what they particularly liked about Scotland. Julio, who works in Physical Education, said he really liked the fact that no-one smokes outside. “In Spain, this is not enforced like it is here. It’s much healthier here and no-one drinks outside in the streets either”. Hye Yeong told me that she loves fish and chips, and also our black (blood) puddings!


Interview by Alastair Blair

The legend of Nessie – the Loch Ness Monster!

Do you think the Loch Ness Monster actually exists? In our last two blogs we provided some weblinks that suggest she might, but there are, of course, others who think that she is just a myth, kept going to help the tourist industry in northern Scotland.

Certainly, one of the most powerful arguments against Nessie existing is that we should found her by now. Although there are lots of people who have seen something, there is not any definitive sighting or photograph that conclusively proves she exists. However, it’s well known that humans have not discovered every creature that exists and that many of those still to be discovered live in the depth of the oceans. Loch Ness, while very deep, is hardly an ocean though.

A major scientific investigation in 2003, conducted by the BBC, could find no trace whatsoever of the Monster and concluded that “the only explanation for the persistence of the myth of the monster is that people see what they want to see.” A more recent report, on the website, thescienceexplorer, was not quite so certain, with its author saying that while she “would prefer it that Nessie be real … she probably doesn’t exist.”

However, we have news for all the scientists. Nessie is alive and well and has just joined Scottie and Bonnie, our other mascots, to add to the School’s marketing team. She’ll be making regular appearances in the future and accompanying Andrew Lennox, the School’s President, on his travels around the world to see students and agents. It just goes to show how little scientists know!