Alba Inglés was established in 1995 by my wife, Virginia Haines and myself, Mark Barritt. When we started, our main objective was simply to get students speaking English as we had forever been coming across Spanish students of English who were incapable of forming even the simplest of sentences if they didn’t have the text book in front of them.
For this reason, in the early days, we put more of an emphasis on communicative teaching methods, for example, setting up activities that were designed to get the students to speak without worrying too much about whether what they were saying was completely correct or not.
However, as time went on we came to realise that, given the relatively limited time available and the fact that we really wanted a system in place to give our long-term students the opportunity to reach the higher levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, communicative teaching methods on their own were not enough. Students needed some kind of structured system which enabled them to have a more rounded experience of English as well as offering them a ‘route’ through our school that gave them a chance of sitting the B1 – C2 Cambridge or Trinity exams, if so desired.
So this was essentially the problem – how to give the students this structured, rounded approach to learning English which included the possibilty of reaching high levels in terms of external exams, without neglecting the communicative aspect which they so obviously needed.
For many years now, the system we have had in place uses the traditional text book as the core element to our teaching. This gives a certain structure to the students’ learning experience but we encourage our teachers to use the text books as imaginatively as possible so that the material therein provides a context for more communicative activities. In other words, the course book becomes a means to an end (the provision of contexts for communicative activities), instead of the idea of ‘getting through the course book’ being the end in itself. The material in text books has come a long way in the time that Alba Inglés has been in existence and this goes a long way to ensuring that our ‘method’ works.
Another essential element in our effort to give students a ’rounded’ learning experience is that of the native level English teacher. If a student is ever going to understand natural spoken English to any degree, it is crucial that they listen to native-level speakers of English from as early an age and over as long a period of time as possible. Even if it takes the students many years of sitting in class before they can actually produce the language they are hearing, it is essential that they are given that contact with native-level English speakers to enable them to get used to and to ‘tune into’ natural, fluid spoken English.
In a very simplistic form, these are the three pillars to our teaching philosophy:
Our school Alba Inglés is situated in the residential square, Plaza Guadalupe, in the middle of town about 3 minutes’ walk from the main shopping street and the indoor market.
We have the following facilities…
Osuna is an attractive town of about 18,000 inhabitants in the centre of Andalucía, about 90 km to the East of Seville.
It is ideally situated for visits to Seville itself, Córdoba and the Málaga coast, being approximately an hour’s drive from each. Granada is only slightly further away at an hour and a half.
For teachers considering applying to work in Osuna, here are comments from some of the teachers who have worked at Alba Inglés over the years. We hope you find them useful.
‘Working at Alba Inglés in my first year of teaching has been a really positive experience. Mark and Ginny have always been approachable and helpful and the school has a really warm atmosphere. If you’re thinking of working at Alba Inglés, I’d recommend it to you.’
‘I spent my first year of teaching at Alba Inglés and can honestly say I couldn’t have asked for a more rewarding experience.Firstly Mark and Ginny are supportive and friendly as bosses and they give constant help and guidance both in teaching and in settling into life in Osuna. The school has a real family-like atmosphere and you are always treated as a valued individual. The school itself has excellent resources and technology that rivals any bigger city school. There are opportunities for progression, and ideas are always shared freely during the breaks. Mark and Ginny make sure your workload is reasonable and that your skills are utilised to the maximum potential without ever being intrusive. Osuna is a beautiful city full of warm affable people. It is very small if you are used to city life, but both the Costa Del Sol and Seville are only a short train journey away during the weekends; for those who miss the city. Also, it’s worth mentioning the Feria (a week long party) in May/June is great fun. Overall, Alba Inglés is a gem of a school and I’m honoured to have had the chance to work there. ‘
‘Osuna is a lovely, friendly town and I have met some fantastic people. There are enough bars and restaurants and if I have wanted to go to a bigger city, Malaga, Seville and even Granada have been close enough by train or bus to visit for a weekend. With regards to the school, the friendly, supportive and even family like atmosphere has been a lovely experience.’
‘Alba Inglés is an excellent school to work for. Mark and Ginny are extremely supportive, both in and out of school, and were always ready to help with any problems that arose. The school as a whole had a relaxed, friendly environment during my time there, and I’ll always have fond memories. Although Osuna itself is rather quiet, it is a very friendly town, and it was relatively easy to get to know local people even with my limited Spanish. Overall my experience was very positive and certainly helped me to develop my teaching skills a lot. I would thoroughly recommend Alba Inglés.’
‘I loved working at Alba Inglés, as it is such a friendly school with a great deal of emphasis placed on lessons being fun. It was my third year of teaching TEFL but my first experience of teaching young children. This was an aspect of the job I really enjoyed, once I got over my initial inhibitions about singing and dancing! Teaching students of all different ages makes the job varied and interesting and provides lots of valuable experience. Most importantly Mark & Ginny are fantastic people to work for, as they are both extremely supportive (both in school and out) and a lot of fun. They made me feel very welcome and went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure I was happy in Osuna. I left Osuna over three years ago and have since returned twice to visit Mark & Ginny as friends. Osuna is a beautiful town and also makes a perfect base from which to explore other great places in Andalusia. (I enjoyed regular trips to the Costa.) In Osuna I really enjoyed the feria (a kind of week long party in traditional get up) and watching the Semana Santa processions. Osuna is small, don’t expect to go anywhere without bumping into a student or their family and if you’re thinking of spending the year there with another person make sure they are someone you can get along with almost 24/7 if your Spanish is minimal. It’s a great place to learn the language because not many people speak English in the cafes & restaurants, so you get to practise with the locals who are very warm and understanding. I would recommend the experience to anyone who would appreciate the opportunity to spend time in a small and friendly school and traditional Andalucian town.’
‘I spent two years at Alba Inglés in Osuna and can highly recommend both. Living in small town Spain is certainly different from anything I’d experienced before which was exactly what I wanted. With no Spanish at first it was challenging at times but ultimately made feeling at home there even more rewarding. It is really something to live the Andaluz lifetstyle and explore the incredible cities nearby. It was my first full time teaching experience and a fast learning curve which has equiped me with the skills (and games!) I’m still using and developing in the classroom now. It might have been hard work teaching children at times but it was also lots of fun. Finally, Mark and Ginny are very special people who went out of their way many, many times for me and whose friendship is another reason why I’ll never forget those two years.’
‘My two years in Osuna working at Alba Inglés were extremely enjoyable, and I would certainly consider living and working there again. Osuna itself is a small, quite traditional Andaluz town, and offers the chance to really experience a genuine slice of Spanish culture. Mark and Ginny really helped us to settle in (we started off with zero Spanish!) and we very quickly found ourselves enjoying not only the town itself, but also the fantastic cities of Sevilla, Cordoba and Granada, all close enough to do in a daytrip or weekend. If you haven’t taught kids before, be ready to use up plenty of energy and patience, but also to get plenty of reward and amusement. There was always a lot of humour in the office & staff room too, which really helped to make it a great working environment. Working with such a wide age range taught me teaching strategies which I think really added to my teaching skills. All in all a teaching and life experience that I would thoroughly recommend.’
‘I really enjoyed my two years in Osuna and was very sad to leave. Osuna is a small town, which has its advantages and disadvantages: whilst it can be boring and at times claustrophobic, the people are very friendly, as are the students, and there is a strong sense of community. This was my first full-time teaching position and I received a great deal of support from Mark and Ginny, both professionally and personally. The school environment is very welcoming and I loved the fact that we had a staff room as it’s a perfect place to bounce around ideas, moan about hectic classes and relax away from the classroom a little between lessons. Also, there are a lot of opportunities for creativity and I felt that I had the freedom to do activities away from the book as although we had targets for each term, the classroom was our domain and originality and variety were welcomed. In all, the school itself is fantastic, although I would recommend that people, for their own sakes and for that of Mark and Ginny, are sure about living the small-town lifestyle.’
‘I had a great year in Osuna. It was my first teaching job post TEFL and Alba Ingles was a fantastic place to gain experience and confidence in a friendly environment. Mark and Ginny did their best to make my life as easy and pleasant as possible, both in and out of school. I also felt that I was trusted to ‘get on with’ my classes myself, but they were always there if I needed help or advice. I was able to teach 5 year olds, adults, and most ages in between (sometimes in one evening!) which made the job really interesting and varied. I had a very relaxing, stress-free year in a beautiful part of Spain, and I think my Spanish really improved. Living in Osuna isn’t for everyone, and it can be lonely sometimes as its a small place with nothing available outside the traditional Spanish small-town life. If you are coming on your own you need to be pretty independent and prepared for a quiet life to some extent. However, its easy to go on day trips to Seville, Malaga and Granada, which are fanatasitc cities, and possible to make some great Spanish friends. Overall my experience was a very positive one. Good luck!’
‘I have just finished teaching (June 07) at Alba Inglés in Osuna. I came over with my husband and 2 small children and we have spent a most enjoyable year here. Mark and Ginny made us all feel very welcome and provided lots of help in settling in, finding accommodation and basically finding your feet, especially if you don’t speak Spanish. The teaching is fine, mainly teaching children, so experience there helps and Mark and Ginny are always available to ask for help. We’ve really enjoyed liiving in Osuna – my husband has done quite a bit of mountain biking in the local area plus we went to the Sierra Nevada skiing in winter and explored the Med and Atlantic coasts in summer. It’s been a great experience for us all and we will definitely be returning.’
‘Thank you for giving me such a positive working experience. I truly can’t think of much to criticise. Maybe I would have been happier in a city but here I am after two very enriching years of my life. I’ve learned that I love working with children and that I do it well. I’ve also learned a lot about myself from living in a smaller community and what I want in life. Time for the next adventure…’
‘If I hadn’t decided to come to Osuna, I wouldn’t have met my fiancé. If I hadn’t met him, then I wouldn’t have had my first child – now, a smiley, happy one- year-old. Aside from being fantastic examples of the third conditional, this is also completely true. When I started at Alba Inglés in 2008, little did I know that Osuna would be my home for the next 4 ½ years. I came to Osuna purely because I thought the school sounded welcoming and professional and I definitely wasn’t wrong. Mark and Ginny were so welcoming that they couldn’t get rid of me until 2013. I enjoyed some of the happiest moments of my life in Osuna with everyone who worked there during the time I was at the school. From cubatas with Natalie in “Heaven” and chats with Megan on her roof terrace, to baby-talk with Hayley and Ginny and taking my first child home from the hospital. Throughout my time in Osuna, Mark and Ginny really were like a second family and I can’t even begin to describe how much they helped and supported me both professionally and personally. Osuna has everything you would expect a small town to have and if there is anything that you crave from a big city then Seville is only an hour away. A huge plus side to Osuna is that it is very well connected and has a train station which links it to Seville, Malaga and Granada. If you are really interested improving your Spanish and learning about Andalusian culture then Osuna will suit you. It is a welcoming town and you get back what you put in, in terms of integrating. You will soon be a familiar face; you only have to go to the same bar twice. The school itself is far better equipped than most schools in bigger cities. The classrooms are huge (at least twice the size of other places I’ve seen), air-conditioned and all have computers and e-beam for the whiteboards. There is a nice atmosphere to work in and if you need any help at all then there is always support from other teachers and from Mark and Ginny. Another thing I’d like to point out is that everything runs incredibly smoothly and professionally – you only ever have to worry about your lessons. There is also a very hands-on approach and your opinions and suggestions to help improve things are always welcomed and considered. Anyway, I have written an essay but as you can probably tell I loved my time in Osuna and I hope you do too if you choose to go there. To sum up: come to Osuna, it’s a fantastic place and a super school (and you might even meet your future spouse!)’
‘Perhaps Osuna’s greatest quality is the affordable distance within which to escape to many wonderful places, beaches, mountains, cities etc. I can’t recommend enough the advantages of having a car here! Osuna is undoubtedly visually stunning, and is a bit like walking in a dream land at first encounter, albeit lacking some of the facilities you would expect even the smallest town or village in England to have. No cinema, no theatre, and the swimming pool is only open during the summer months. There are lots of bars and some of the chefs here take great pride in their dishes (which is a great treat for visitors). What I found most surprising, was how much Mark and Ginny care and go out of their way for the students and staff. They are constantly giving extra exams for students who are nearing exams, and want to know what the students are like. It’s obvious they are not in this business for money, and are willing to sacrifice the pennies for a nicer working environment – which goes a long way in their attitude, and inevitably, your attitude towards the school and willingness to put in the hours. They do expect you to do your best, not ‘better than your best’ which some companies claim to expect. This means keeping up to date with everything and planning good lessons – so in a nut shell, you work hard, especially if you are not familiar with the smart board technology and it’s your first year teaching. This is not the place you can (or want to) rock up 5 minutes before class totally unprepared. Overall, Mark and Ginny don’t just want you to work hard, they want you to enjoy yourself and make you feel welcome. If this means ‘dragging’ you to karaoke, or inviting you round for a meal, I’m certain you will feel welcome and feel like part of the team. ‘
‘I originally only came to Osuna for six months, but ended up staying three times as long. I have had a great time, personally and professionally at Alba Ingles and I am genuinely sorry to be leaving. Mark and Ginny have built something great here, and have been far more than just bosses with their constant advice and support. I have loved the focus on planning and actually teaching, rather than needless bureaucracy, which was a refreshing change for me. Everything is done to allow you to create the best possible classes, through the extensive pre-prepared resources provided and the regular workshops. Likewise the emphasis on thinking of creative ways to use the books has been stimulating, and allowed me to re-examine the way I conduct classes. Osuna is a very pleasant and economical place to live, and a great window into the “real” Andalucía. The surrounding countryside is an adventure playground for any keen cyclist, and it is very well connected to larger cities if you want to explore further afield. Overall a great place to live and work.’
‘I have been working at Alba Inglés for two years and have just re-signed my contract for a third year. In my opinion, Alba Inglés is a fantastic school, whether you are new to the wonderful world of ESL teaching, or have taught elsewhere before. I fall into the second category, having previously taught in Taiwan, Thailand, France and the UK, and I can honestly say that Alba Inglés is the best school I have ever worked in, with Mark and Ginny being the most personable bosses I have ever encountered. So what makes the school so inviting? Small class sizes, a logical core curriculum, an abundance of resources and paid holidays were part of what initially attracted me. However, the thing that makes this school stand out head-and–shoulders above other establishments is the supportive atmosphere that Mark and Ginny nurture between students and staff alike. Students are seen as individuals, rather than money-making-machines, and as a result teachers are encouraged to adapt lessons to suit the needs and interests of particular classes. Whilst this means that time is spent in preparing custom-made classes, the results are fantastic, as students are (generally!!!) very responsive and enthusiastic to learn. It is not just the students who are cared for, however. Mark and Ginny go out of their way to help and support their staff from the outset, be it on airport pick-ups, house-hunting and bank account business, to BBQ parties, karaoke singing and games nights, depending on your needs and energy levels… In addition, they offer an incredible amount of personal support to their staff from teacher training and development classes to help with how to make lessons on Gerunds at least slightly appealing… They believe in the philosophy that a happy staff equates to happy students, and they are not wrong in this, as all the teachers I have worked with so far have had nothing negative to say about the school – which is pretty incredible, if you ask me! All in all, if you are looking for a school which encourages a personal approach to teaching and cares about its staff as much as its students, you could do far, far worse than work here. ‘
‘Alba Inglés gave me my first TEFL experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to this type of work. I instantly felt comfortable and competent. The support Mark and Ginny provided right from the outset was fantastic. Other teachers in the school were also very welcoming and supportive. It has been wonderful working within a school that offers freedom and support all in one. Mark and Ginny were never far away to ask even the silliest of questions without feeling embarrassed. I have been free to design lessons in a way that makes me feel comfortable whilst also having an abundance of resources and lesson plans from previous teachers. Teaching all different ages from 6-15 has given me such a variety of experiences, opportunities, and an insight into the culture of Osuna and Spain. I have found Osuna to be very welcoming and a lovely place to live, and although small town Spain might not be for everyone, it has been very easy using public transport to visit the bigger cities such as Seville, Malaga and Granada. I highly recommend working for Alba Inglés for a relaxed and entertaining experience in which you can greatly improve your teaching skills and be thoroughly entertained at least once a day!’
‘My experience at Alba Inglés has been a totally positive one, and I have enjoyed my time in Osuna more than I could ever have imagined. The entire team have been nothing but friendly and supportive – sharing useful advice with regards to planning lessons, managing classes and creating resources – and also providing varied and enjoyable company outside the classroom. This atmosphere is a direct product of the atmosphere that Mark and Ginny have created here, and work so hard to maintain. From before I arrived, they provided help with finding accommodation and getting through the trickier elements of Spanish Bureaucracy, and since I have been here they have been open to any questions – whether related to work or to any more personal issues which have arisen. They have a vast deal of knowledge about the area but, more importantly, are genuinely caring people who see their teachers as people, rather than business assets. It is honestly a privilege to work with them. I returned to Osuna having previously been placed here on my University Year Abroad – which I hope shows how highly I think of the town! I wasn’t sure at first how I would adapt to rural Spain, but Osuna is the best of both worlds – a relaxed pace of life, not at all overwhelming – but also close enough to major cities like Seville and Málaga that there is always something new to do in your free time. The fair in May is also something everyone should experience at least once in their life! I have enjoyed every minute of my time in Osuna, and will leave with the fondest memories of both the town, the school and my students!’
A selection of short clips from classes with some of our ex-teachers.