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Introducing Birchwater Education

Published on Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Ben Kesp from The Ben Kesp Academy react-text: 1614 takes time out to interview Ian Gallagher to find out more about Birchwater Education (BWE).


The story so far... 


BK: Thank you Ian for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with me. Firstly, tell me - Who, what and where are Birchwater Education?


IG: Well, you'll find Birchwater Education or BWE as it's sometimes called, in Limerick City on the west coast of Ireland. Believe it or not, Limerick is the 3rd largest city in Ireland and students generally find it a great place to work and study. We are known for being an English language school and business college but we also have computer classes for children on the weekends. I am the founder (Ian Gallagher) of the college. I've been very lucky to have had the experience of working in the education sector across Ireland and the UK as well as various countries in Asia. I had an amazing time in Malaysia, Kazakhstan and China working with the Ministry of Education in Melaka, the Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools in Kokshetau/Almaty and Wellington College International in Tianjin, China. All this experience has helped me to start Birchwater Education and create a strong educational foundation to work from.  


BK: Of all the places you have been to, where was your favorite place to live? 


IG: That's a tough question. I get asked that a lot and I can never single out any place as a favorite. Each place had it's own special draw and unique features. Malaysia was my first experience overseas. I was living the dream there teaching and mentoring local teachers. To be honest, I'm still living the dream. I met a lot of great people in each place I lived and that's what I remember more than the actual countries or cities themselves. I feel that the places and cities I lived in were like a spice you'd add to a meal but the people I met during my travels are what added substance to it all and that's what I really remember. 


BK: What have you found to be the biggest challenge so far?


IG: The hardest thing has been learning the ropes in terms of marketing, selling, SEO and web design. There's a lot to learn as it's a huge field that requires a lot of dedication. Saying that, there are a lot of benefits to starting a business these days. The world is a whole lot smaller and social media makes the playing field somewhat more even. Moving from the classroom as a teacher to building an English school and business college has been challenging but I'm loving the process and the journey. I'm lucky to have a /react-text great team working with me. It wouldn't be possible without them.  


BK:  What makes Birchwater Education stand out from it's competitors? 


IG: Well firstly, I need to acknowledge that the language schools and business colleges in Limerick are very good. There are a lot of great courses to choose from and there are a lot of great teachers here in Limerick working in these schools. What makes us stand out? I'll give you the top 3 in my opinion. 


The Teaching experience, School Culture and Motto -  For us, it's about the teaching and learning from the top down and bottom up. What I mean by that is every member of staff has been a teacher or educator in the past so we understand the issues students have and the difficulties they face. The teachers also have industry experience which they can draw on in the classroom. If you are doing a professional business course, you want someone teaching you that has business experience, right?


The management team also know the challenges that the teachers face, which is important in creating the right atmosphere and culture in the school. This might not seem like a typical point to make but trust me, when everyone is on the same page and share the same goals, you notice it in the classroom. Everything flows better. You could argue that it's  what makes the likes of Apple and Google so successful. This isn't always the case with some colleges. The owners are often businessmen that know very little about education, which sometimes effects the quality of the service they provide. This might be a cliché but at BWE the students and their education come first.


Our Students make the decisions   - There are a lot of schools that are set up like production lines. Especially the likes of what I call 'corporate English schools' and franchises that run below average courses during the summer and throughout the year. The prices are usually great but the quality is never what you expect. In these particular types of schools, it is 100% about the profit. The students and the staff are usually the last people to be consulted when changes are made because decisions are based on how to maximise profit. In many cases, the staff do not know the names of the students. They go through the motions without ever being involved or feeling part of the experience. At BWE, the students and staff  are at the centre of the decision making process.  We're always asking for feedback and input to help us improve the overall experience across everything from cultural trips to assessments. We do this to make sure our students have an amazing experience studying English at our school while they are living in Ireland 


Location and Facilities  - We have a great location in the city centre. It is a very modern building. Other schools are in old buildings that get cold in the winter, poor wifi, old computers, terrible facilities etc. Our building is new, it's warm in the winter, it has elevator access, a chill out area, a good security system at the door, great computer facilities and our new student room will have a cooking facility and a trendy lounge area!

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