Our Story

Founded in 1969

The English Language Centre Bristol (ELC Bristol) was founded in 1969. It was the first English language school in Bristol. Abon School was founded in 1973. ELC Bristol and Abon were great friends and were the only two language schools in the city until the late 1980s when OISE and IH Bristol opened.

John joined ELC Bristol as its youngest teacher in 1977 and two years later the Principal sold the school to its seven teachers. John lived in the school and he and Margaret even had their wedding reception there! By 1995, there were only three teachers remaining from the original team and although she had been helping for many years, Margaret was formally invited to join ELC Bristol - we became a family-run school.

In 1997, the Principal of Abon School retired and ELC Bristol and Abon became one school. Our remaining partners retired in 2007 and since then the school has been run by John and Margaret. So, there was an advantage of being the youngest after all!

A family-run school in the UK

40,000 students from more than 50 countries

We have always had a wonderful team of teachers and we have always put our students at the centre of everything we do.

For the last 10 years we have consistently been ranked one of the top English language schools in the country, according to the British Council Inspectors’ reports. To this day, we remain the joint number one school out of more than 500 schools in the UK – something which makes us very proud.

In 2019, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the school in style with a party at the Avon Gorge Hotel, overlooking the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge. By then, 40,000 amazing students had passed through our doors from more than 50 different countries, leaving us with wonderful memories.


On March 19th 2020, Covid-19 sadly forced the school to temporarily close, along with all the other schools in the UK. For 139 days we remained in lockdown until August 3rd when we reopened our doors at last and began running classes as normal. We are following UK government guidelines and prioritising the safety and wellbeing of all our students and team, which you can read more about here.

2020 has been a difficult year for us all, but with the support of the ELC family around the world, we know we can continue to help students have a life-changing experience at our school in the wonderful city of Bristol.

John and Margaret Duncan

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