Our school

The School of English Studies (SES) Folkestone was founded by Peter O’Connell and his wife, Lea, in 1957, with the mission to promote international understanding and further relations between nations. The school began life as an annual residential summer school for young learners (called English Vacation School) in Ashford. The move into year-round adult courses began in 1959 with the General Course, which was initially held in their home in Folkestone.

The school continued to grow, and so in 1963 the couple moved into the Flowergate building in Grimston Gardens, where the school has remained since. In 1965, SES introduced the Keyman course to meet the needs of high level professionals who needed to perfect their oral language skills. This paved the way for more specialised business training, with specific subject areas also being catered for later on. Now, SES also runs exam preparation courses, in addition to their Octorial programmes.

Peter O'Connell and the ethos of the School of English Studies

Peter O’Connell, a Cambridge graduate, taught as an English teacher in preparatory schools in the UK and the USA for a year as part of a teacher exchange programme. Upon his return to the UK in 1956, Peter taught in a summer school for international students. It was here that he discovered his love of English language teaching and the drive to set up his own school.

After he established SES, Peter O’Connell managed it throughout the years up until his retirement. He was involved in several organisations to better the practice of English language teaching. He acted as chairman of the Association of Recognised English Language Schools (ARELS) for two years and was one of the founding members of the Society for Effective Affective Learning (SEAL). He was passionate about new methodologies, which is reflected in the school’s progressive attitude.

Peter O’Connell’s time teaching in the USA exposed him to a wide range of new teaching methods and technologies, and as a result SES was one of the first schools in the country to introduce a language laboratory. In addition, the Keyman course was an early adopter of case studies, role plays and simulations, methods which are now ubiquitous in English language teaching and management training schemes. O’Connell decided early on that he wanted the school to be run more like a boarding school, not like a university as many others did. This meant strict rules regarding attendance and homework were enforced to encourage students to work to their full potential. This rigorous work ethic is still present within the ethos of the school.

SES has welcomed students from every corner of the globe, including overseas politicians, nobility and celebrities such as EL Cordob├ęs, a famous matador from Spain who came to SES in 1970 to prepare himself for his shows in English speaking countries. It was his first time studying in a school.

The school has also developed some of the best teachers in the industry, and since the beginning placed emphasis on cultural learning as a means to facilitate language learning. SES has been running a successful Teacher Development course since 1995 to spread ideas amongst other tutors in the business, something Peter O’Connell was passionate about.

The school’s dedicated staff and tutors have helped it grow and evolve to meet the diverse needs and challenges students face in the 21st century. Thanks to this, Peter and Lea O’Connell’s vision of a supportive, international family will always be maintained.