International School Algarve

In 2002, Vale Verde International School opened its large modern premises in Burgau, Luz (on the outskirts of Lagos), fully complying with all the newly-implemented European Community regulations. The school provides parents in the Western Algarve with the opportunity to give their child a secondary education, based on the British National Curriculum with international adaptations.

Since its opening, the school has achieved a 100% pass rate for all students in all subjects undertaken in the final IGCSE examinations each year. This remarkable feat has been made possible by the school’s well-qualified, dedicated and experienced staff of whom we are justly proud.

Vale Verde International School has some of the most modern schooling facilities in the country and is almost daily broadening the range of educational opportunity we can offer.

The school employs a fully qualified staff of specialists, recognised by the Portuguese authorities, with a rich diversity of backgrounds, experience and nationalities. Our aim is to ensure that our growing number of pupils will receive a high quality education experience in a healthy environment.

The Vale Verde International School offers a wide and balanced curriculum based on the English National Curriculum for Key Stages 3 and 4 and leading to internationally recognised qualifications – the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and the International Certificate of Education (ICE) – administered by the Cambridge University International Exams.

Pupils in Years 6 and 7 follow a common curriculum of English, Maths, General Science, French, Portuguese, Geography, History, I.C.T., Art, Drama and Physical Education. As from September 2006 Chemistry will be offered.

In Year 9 individual Sciences are introduced (presently Physics and Biology) and Business Studies is also added to the time table. Pupils are offered the option of English Literature as an IGCSE course as from Year 10.

In Years 10 and 11 a limited but expanding option system is put into operation allowing pupils to “play to their strengths” while ensuring that they continue with priority subjects. Eventually all students will study 12 subjects throughout these two years leading to IGCSE’s in 8 or 9 of these. As from September 2006, Chemistry and Food and Nutrition Technology will be introduced.

Increasingly throughout the school I.C.T. is assuming the role of a means to learn and exercise other subjects as well as an independent discipline in its own right.

You can find out more information by visiting the VVIS website on http://www.vvis.org or e-mailing admissions on [email protected]

Poor Customer Service Is a Costly Business Mistake

Most everyone who owns a business knows how important referrals or word of mouth marketing is for the success of their business. Equally important is the absence of any negative word of mouth marketing from your customers about your business. Nothing will close down a business quicker than gaining a reputation for poor customer service. Think about how many times you have had a poor experience at a local restaurant and how many people you may have told about this experience. Have you ever been back to that Restaurant? Do you think the friends you’ve told ever go there? The answer to both is likely “No”. Is that restaurant still in business? Most of the restaurants where I’ve experienced poor service are no longer operating. The simple facts are if a business doesn’t focus on providing the best service to their customers they will quickly be out of business.

Word of bad service spreads quickly and not focusing on satisfying your current customers will prove to be a costly mistake. A study from the Verde Group and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania revealed some startling statistics. First the study revealed that almost half of shoppers will avoid a particular store because of someone else’s negative experience. Also, 31% of customers will tell one or more friends about a poor experience and on average will tell four people.

In today’s internet crazed society four people can quickly turn into thousands of people if a customer decides to share their experience online through review sites or social networks such as Twitter or Facebook. And, when that negative experience is shared, you can certainly count on a bit of embellishment to make the experience sound a bit more terrible than the actual truth. The study further concluded that out of 100 dissatisfied customers a business stands to lose between 32 and 36 current or potential customers.

It is much cheaper to retain a current customer than it is to attract a new one. Businesses with a strategic focus on service stand to gain much more than a business focused on growth from creative marketing and slick ad campaigns. I would much rather visit our locally owned Roush’s hardware store than the major retail home improvement center nearby. Every time I visit Roush’s I can count on someone asking me if I need assistance finding something within 1-2 minutes of walking in the store. This is certainly not the case when I visit the major retailer. In fact, during my last visit to this store not one employee offered any assistance the entire time I spent in the store.

When I finally asked an employee for assistance in finding the item I needed, they simply told me the aisle and approximate location where I should look. Needless to say, I haven’t been back to that store. I’ll probably tell a few people along the way about my poor experience there and how Roush’s is always eager to assist their customers once they walk in the door. I may even post my poor experience online to share with the world. How many people will see this online is anyone’s guess but I’m thinking it will be more than just a few. Can you afford the possibility of having hundreds or perhaps thousands of people know your business doesn’t value it’s customers? A simple strategy that focuses on providing great customer service to your current customer base will go a long way towards marketing your business.

Povoa De Varzim on the Costa Verde of Portugal

Located just 15 miles from Oporto in Northern Portugal, Povoa de Varzim is a major seaside resort on the Costa Verde (Green Coast). Originally a major fishing town in the area, the resort has become a delightful cosmopolitan summer retreat but still with reminders of the towns origins. The town boasts historic churches, museums and a beautiful harbour which is protected by an 18th century fort and is where the local fishing boats land their catch of sardines, hake, sea bream and seaweed which is dried and then sold as fertilizer. Povoa de Varzim is an attractive, sophisticated town with traditional black and white mosaic pavements, beautiful gardens and a town hall where a monument to the town’s most famous resident, the 19th century novelist Eca de Queiros, stands.

About 20 miles inland you will find the intriguing town of Braga (the Portuguese Rome) which is famous for its superb Italianate churches, 18th century houses and wonderfully landscaped gardens. The town also holds spectacular torchlight processions during Easter Holy Week which are not to be missed if you are lucky enough to take one of the travel deals available at this time of the year.

Not to be missed is a visit to Oporto, home to the famous port wine, Romanesque cathedral and the Ribeira. Explore the heart of the city which is a UNESCO Heritage Site. Wander along the narrow cobbled lanes lined with traditional houses, restaurants and bars. There is a choice of ways to explore the town, on foot, by boat on the River Douro or by the tram (electrico) which runs along the coast. Take a leisurely stroll across the Dom Luis Bridge and view the Ribeira on one bank and the Vila Nova de Gaia where the famous port cellars are located on the other bank.

Explore the Douro Valley which is another UNESCO Heritage Site. With an absolutely stunning backdrop of old terraced vineyards and towns, the valley can be explored by boat from the River Douro, by steam train, road or by hiking along the many trails.

Povoa de Varzim has over a mile and a half of beautiful sandy beach where visitors can relax in the sun, take a dip in the crystal clear waters and even try their hand at surfing. At the northern end of the beach there are hotels, restaurants, bars, beach bars, a casino, water sports facilities, water slides and tennis courts. The resorts’ busy harbour stands at the south end of the beach. Outside the town there are two excellent surfing beaches, Salgueira and Agucadoura. The quieter Rio Alto Beach is where naturists go to laze in the sun between the sand dunes.

A visit to the neighbouring fishing port of Vila do Conde is a must on your direct holidays to Povoa de Varzim. The town is famous for its beautiful lacework and scrumptious pastries, including its sweet cakes, pasteis de Santa Clara. This quiet town also has a lace-making school and museum which are well worth a visit. Nearby Guimaraes was Portugal’s first capital and is a World Heritage Site. Here you will find a well preserved medieval quarter with some amazing Gothic, Baroque and Romanesque architecture. In the town of Rates there is the interesting 12th century church of Sao Pedro.

The resort has a vibrant nightlife with lively clubs and discos along the beachfront. Evenings in Povoa de Varzim can be spent dancing the night away in the clubs, having a flutter at the popular casino which is the biggest in Northern Portugal or just relaxing over a meal at one of the resorts restaurants. Delicious locally caught fish and seafood dishes are served at the towns restaurants, don’t forget to sample the tasty traditional fish stew, Caldeirada a Povoa.