How we began…
Ten years ago this month Blackhen Education was born. I can’t believe it! Andy and I had been living in France for nearly 4 years and the idea had come from a conversation I had had with a parent, talking about the lack of English lessons available locally for ex- pat children. I was soon teaching 1-1 lessons to two lovely boys who lived 30 mins away from where we lived. One morning we received a phone call asking about online classes and we thought that it was an interesting idea, particularly for us as this meant we could teach to a far wider number than was physically possible. At that time Zoom & Microsoft Teams had yet to be invented so this was still a new concept for many, ourselves included. Andy and I sat down together and started to map out the first unit of work. As for the name, ‘Blackhen’ came from Coco, one of our chickens that we had.
Blackhen was very much a business born at the kitchen table. Originally, we catered for Key Stage 2 (7-11 yrs) and Key Stage 3 (11-14 yrs) students, but we soon had parents contacting us enquiring about iGCSE English. We had both taught GCSE English in the UK but had never attempted to deliver an exam course online. This was a totally new area for us and we haven’t looked back since. To date we have had 53 students sit iGCSE exams and they have consistently achieved 100% pass rate. Several students have been awarded A*.
At the beginning Andy and I wrote all of the courses and marked all of the work as it came in each month from our students. As time went by and numbers grew, we realised that this wouldn’t be possible to continue doing without the help of another tutor. Forward wind 10 years and today we have four brilliant tutors working with us – Karen, Emily, Bernadette and Kate. This is not to forget the wonderful tutors Lucy Brook and Emily Scott who have worked with us and have now moved on to pastures new.
From the start we were determined that Blackhen Education would be an online school that helped expat children maintain their English. We wanted to design courses that were fun to study as well as developing the key literacy skills of reading and writing. Our view was and still is, that English can be creative and embrace other subjects. To this end our units of work cover a whole range of subjects and topics.
Four years ago we decided to add another string to our bow and introduced British History for KS3 students. This has proved extremely popular and as a result two years ago we wrote and introduced our Key Stage 2 History course for younger students.
It’s been interesting whilst writing this blog to look at all the students that have ‘passed through our doors’ over the last 10 years. We have worked out that we have had 237 students in total study with Blackhen. Most of our alumni have gone to university, be it in France or the UK. Reading, Durham, Brest, Poitiers and Southampton Universities are just some of the destinations that have received Blackhen students. One of our students even went on to study at the Sorbonne!
Our students originally came from France but over the years we have had parents contact us from further afield and we currently have students in the Netherlands, the Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, La Reunion, Spain and even Japan!
From quite early on we were keen to support a charity. We looked around and decided that we wanted to work with a small charity that was connected to education in some way. After some research I discovered the charity we now support- Supporting Dalit Children. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the Dalits, they are a large group in India that sadly sits at the bottom of the traditional caste system. Despite their size (nearly 200 million), they are among the poorest and least educated Indian society.
We are proud to sponsor two students with their education; Praveen and Arpita. Blackhen students have been involved with the charity over the years, making home-made Christmas and Easter cards and also making cotton bags for Christmas presents.
We’ve faced several challenges over the last ten years at Blackhen. Our home in France was flooded in 2018 and the ground floor was wrecked. A year later I was diagnosed with breast cancer and just a few weeks after surgery my father died. And then in early 2020, along with the world, we had to adapt to life during a pandemic.
Along the way there have been other, far nicer changes, namely the birth of our little grandson Bodhi and the imminent arrival of his brother.
What we now offer
As Blackhen Education enters its second decade, we now offer:
English courses from age 4 up to 16 years
IGCSE English Language & IGCSE English Literature
History courses at KS3 and KS2.
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/BlackhenEducation
Facebook group for Parents & Students: Parents & Students of Blackhen Education
Facebook group for teachers: The Blackboard
Blackhen is expanding its ‘live teaching’ sessions, with classes available to KS3 and iGCSE students. We are also looking to offer iGCSE History from next September (2022).
I can’t finish this blog post without thanking two people who have consistently worked very hard behind the scenes. Firstly, my daughter Jess who has worked so hard to design our websites over the years, all of our new Parent Packs for the website and the resources that can be downloaded from the website. And secondly, Jenni who is one of our parents and has been looking after our social media sites for the last few years.
On a final note, I would like to say a big ‘Thank you’ to all of our Blackhen Education parents for your continuing support and loyalty.
Here’s to the next 10 years….:)
If you are interested in any of our courses, resources or ‘live’ lessons, please feel free to contact me at: [email protected]
Or check out our website: www.blackheneducation.com