Geneva English School
Geneva English School is a small private British co-ed school for pupils ages 3-18, located in a village near Geneva overlooking the Lake, offering an all-through English education..
- Geneva English School
Route de Malagny 36
- T +41 22 775 0440
- E [email protected]
- W www.geschool.ch
- Lower School Ages: 3-11
- Lower School Sexes: Co-ed
- Lower School Numbers: 190
- Middle School Sexes: Co-ed
- Senior School Ages: 11-18
- Senior School Sexes: Co-ed
- Senior School Numbers: 150
- Total School Numbers: 340 boys and girls
- Teaching Language: English
- SEN: SEN considered case by case
- Boarding: Not available
- Uniform: No
- School Year: Three terms: late August to the end of June; Breaks: 3 weeks Christmas; 2 weeks Easter; 2 week Autumn Term, 1 week Spring Term; long weekend Summer Term.
- School Hours: 8.30 am - 3.30 pm (Primary: Wednesday - 12.20)
- Fee Currency: Swiss Franc (CHF)
- Fee Details: Annual Tuition Fees: Nursery (full-time): 22,050; Primary: 27,945; Year 7-9: 32,620; Year 10-11: 33,590; Year 12-13: 35,495; 5% sibling discount / A Level scholarships in Art and Mathematics (fee discount)
- Fee Extras: Registration fee:1,500. Capital development fund: 4,000 (made up of two 2,000 payments one on joining and one a year later). Tuition deposit: 3,000. Lunch, transportation, mandatory residential camp, optional ski camp
- Religion: Non-denominational
- Memberships: AGBIS, AGEP, COBIS, ECS, FSEP, IAPS, SGIS.
- State/Independent: Independent: private non-profit
- A levels
- IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education)
- National Curriculum for England
- BSO (British Schools Overseas inspection programme)
- Council of British International Schools (COBIS)
- Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) (DfE BSO approved)
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The Good Schools Guide International. Period.
What The Good Schools Guide International says
Since August 2020, Matt Williams BSc PGCE, previously principal of the outstanding Chelsea Academy in London for six years, joining as the school was expanding the sixth form. He puts his success there down to focusing on the quality of teaching and development of staff, as well as the academic performance of the students. Prior to this he had been selected as part of the accelerated Future Leaders scheme, which takes teachers with great potential and accelerates them to headship within four to six years. Over seven years, he had leadership roles at a number of inner London schools - Parliament Hill School in Camden, Jo Richardson in Barking and Dagenham and finally what is now Harris Academy in St John’s Wood.
His dream had always been to lead an ‘all through’ school and his strong leadership skills should support GES through changing times as it expands into sixth form. He wasted no time with making necessary changes including adapting school holidays and setting in maths and English, introducing technology lower down the school and staff cuts.
Perhaps his slightly bare office, certainly in comparison with his predecessors, is a reflection of his management style: to the point. He certainly talks the talk and both about education and, more importantly, the young people themselves. Be it crouching down to discuss a current project with a group of young children in reception class or discussing adult to adult a GCSE student’s art portfolio, he connects well with every age group and listens intently to what they have to say.
He clearly recognises the quality of education and high academic standards that is GES’s legacy and reputation and is proud to be introducing A levels which will offer local and arriving families a wider choice. However, he also understands that organisations want young people to have a wide range of soft skills that make them adaptable and innovative, which he plans to fulfil, in part, by expanding technological and language skills.
He is very aware of GES’ strong philosophy of fostering a lifelong love of learning and keen to repeat the oft heard, and very true, 'you never see an unhappy child at GES'. Without doubt, it still is one of the warmest, most welcoming and family orientated schools in the world.
There are no academic hurdles by way of exams or prerequisites, but there is an English fluency requirement. A waiting list operates, with preference given to siblings or alumni families. Students who attend GES are usually keen and motivated.
A number of past students have been awarded scholarships to some top British public schools. Sending children to UK boarding schools seems to go in and out of fashion. However, most of the students stay on in Switzerland. Many go on to attend the secondary school for the IGCSE/A level combination. For others wanting IB, Ecolint continues to be a popular choice or indeed other local options in the Geneva area and into the neighbouring canton of Vaud, including Swiss schools that offer the IBDP or even the French Baccalaureate or Swiss Maturité.
In 2022, 43 per cent of all IGCSE entries achieved a grade 9 and 76 per cent a grade 7 or above (compared to 35 per cent and 72 per cent respectively in 2021). The same year, 2022, also saw the first cohort of students sitting AS levels: 60 per cent achieved an A grade and 87 per cent were awarded A or B.
Teaching and learning
The primary objective of the school is to offer the best modern British education for children from age 3-18 living in or around Geneva, and to prepare them for higher education. The school can also prepare students for UK boarding schools (11+ and 13+ exams) and some students do leave at age 11 to attend other local international schools.
The primary school does not slavishly follow the English national curriculum. Rather, it extends it to take in local aspects such as language learning, taking real advantage of a rich international education and its Swiss location.
There are no Sats here (thank goodness, say many parents), but teachers closely monitor children's academic progress. Staff pride themselves on adapting the curriculum to be more international, which does give the school one of its unique points - maintaining the flexibility to incorporate the best of all educational practices. It also means that they can teach rather than constantly practice for tests.
In primary school there is a strong emphasis on literacy and numeracy, and later science, as well as French language and technology skills such as robotics and coding. A high standard of work is both expected and achieved. On our visit, everyone was beavering away at their desks or otherwise actively engaged and very happy to be doing so. There was lots of laughter to be heard.
The teaching staff consists of over 16 experienced and fully qualified British teachers, supplemented by four French teachers and six part-time class assistants (some of whom have had specialist SEN training) plus a specialist director of inclusion. They are enthusiastic, dedicated and well-liked and respected by the parents. Maximum class sizes are 20 pupils in reception and 22 in the other years, with three classes per year across up to year 4 and two classes per year in years 5 and 6.
In secondary school students follow a traditional British curriculum preparing for I/GCSE exams. The recent introduction of A levels is a huge benefit to the local and international community as it offers students, who might struggle with the broad IB Diploma or even broader French Baccalaureate and Suisse Maturité curricula, the opportunity to specialise in three subjects that they enjoy and are good at.
Secondary school's location in an office block (not so unusual among international schools in Switzerland) means that this is not a traditional secondary school experience but smaller class sizes (currently around 20 students) and just two classes per year group allows for a very individual learning environment.
Learning support and SEN
There is a fully qualified director of SEN and a number of class assistants have had specialist SEN training to help those students with minor to moderate learning disabilities. Students are supported within the classroom whenever possible with dedicated learning assistants and booster sessions on offer for those who need further support. Some students may receive one-to-one help for speech and language support.
As the head makes clear, this is a school for English mother tongue or students who are fluent in English, however there is EAL support in both primary and secondary with dedicated coordinators and lessons. The newly introduced - and already popular - language academy offers classes for children in the local system to need to brush up their English skills.
The arts and extracurricular
This is a family school, with many opportunities for the community to gather for the different school shows, the Christmas and summer fairs, carol concert, ski competition or the spectacular sports day. Parents are very active participating in the events - it is an essential ingredient in the school’s family atmosphere. And many hours of hard work go into the school productions by staff and children of course.
Weekly assemblies are also a time when children can showcase work of exceptional quality as well as demonstrate their musical gifts - 30 to 40 music lessons take place in school each week. Throughout the year, the school benefits from a diverse range of visitors from the local police and fire brigade to authors and specialists in music and drama and visitors from CERN, the European organisation for nuclear research.
Art is an important part of the GES curriculum and, as usual with primary schools, the walls are adorned with pictures and paintings. The excellent art facilities at both primary and secondary schools allow for a wide range in the type of art and media the children can get involved with.
In primary school there is an extensive range of extracurricular activities that take place during lunchtimes and after school. Free activities include: choir, drama, art, cooking and chess. Paid for include: ballet, judo and golf.
In secondary school students also get the opportunity to do the Duke of Edinburgh International Award, the Sports Leadership Programme, Model United Nations (MUN) as well as debating, entrepreneurship, eco-club and robotics to name just a few.
There is an extremely well organised after-school care programme every day.
Sport is taken seriously at GES. Football, rugby, basketball and netball teams all fielded in local school competitions and GES organises other interschool events including cross country and athletics. The extensive primary school grounds provide ample space for football and rugby during winter and cricket and rounders in the summer. There is a five a-side football pitch at the secondary school which doubles up as a basketball court. Ski camps are also available for older primary and secondary school students. Netball, a sport that is increasingly popular in Switzerland, is also played on the basketball court. A few table tennis tables also dotted around for enthusiastic players.
Ethos and heritage
The setting of the primary school is idyllic - a 19th century country house-style building situated on a large property a short drive from central Geneva. Walking around the immaculate, well-groomed campus, one could imagine a Jane Austen film being made here. A magnificent view of Lake Geneva and the French Alps beyond with Mont Blanc featured (on a clear day) makes for an unsurpassed setting for sports day each June. There is a large parking area where parents can be found chatting as they drop off their children each morning.
There are three additional buildings: the years 4-5 classroom block, a multi-purpose hall/gymnasium and the state-of-the art reception to year 3 building (which, in our view, is the ugliest of the additional buildings and does somewhat clash with the elegance of the main house). Everything is spotless in true Swiss style. Ample grounds surround the buildings for children to run and play, however, during the winter and if it is muddy, wet or raining, the grass is off limits for the children. Perhaps because they would damage the grass or more likely that they would track mud inside and dirty the shiny marble floors when they re-enter the buildings. An extensive playground with games painted on the ground encourages children to play some of the more traditional British games such as hopscotch.
The Geneva English School was founded in 1961 by a group of parents seeking primary education for their children based on the British curriculum, thereby avoiding disruption in their children's education when they returned to the United Kingdom or were sent to British boarding schools. Its role has changed over the years and a large majority of the children now stay on for secondary education in Geneva. From a school which originally started in a church hall with eight children from 5 to 7 years of age, the Geneva English School has now grown to around 200 primary pupils aged 3 to 11 and 140 secondary students.
Even with this growth the school has definitely not lost the intimate and close family atmosphere which is unique to GES. The sense of real community permeates everywhere at both GES primary and secondary campuses - though the atmosphere is very different at each as you might expect for different school stages.
The secondary school is located 3km away (just five minutes by car) in the neighbouring commune of Versoix. It is located on the right-hand side of a large office building. An architect specialising in school design was brought in to design the common areas, drama hall and classrooms resulting in a very homely feel to common areas and classrooms; both having break out areas for students to work in pairs or groups. It also has a small outdoor area for the students and the older ones are allowed to walk into Versoix or down to the lake (about 200m away) at lunchtimes. Parents can also drop-off in the underground carpark but no space to park and chat with other parents here as at the primary school.
A planned expansion of the school in summer of 2023, a purpose-built sports pitch and access the lake at lunchtime are putting to bed previous mutters about the lack of outside space. The five-year plan includes building a stand-alone secondary school, ideally closer to the primary.
Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline
There are four houses: Rhone, Leman, Jura and Dole. This provides both a family feeling and a spirit of competition firmly built on teamwork as the school’s older children work with younger schoolmates from their house at events throughout the year.
Discipline is not a problem at this school, according to parents and pupils. The children live by school's core values (integrity, community, achievement, resilience and excellence) and the pastoral co-ordinator tracks both academic and personal progress.
Pupils and Parents
Established as a British school for the expat community in this very international city, the school is evolving with a more international demographic. Currently, the student body is about 40 per cent British, 25 per cent with a British or Commonwealth parent and 35 per cent from the rest of the world including local Swiss families. Parents are largely working professionals, many with one of the international companies or organisations based locally. Those parents who have come from London ‘hot-house’ schools will get a surprise - thankfully the academics are strong here without a pressurised atmosphere.
Although all students learn French, which is a priority as it is the local Swiss language, But English is the language in the playground and the parking lot, and there is a very English feel to the school culturally.
Graduates reflect fondly on their days at GES; one told us she loved it and never had a day or time that she didn’t want to go. None of them want to leave when that day finally arrives at the end of year 6, even if they can now move onto the secondary school.
Parents are equally positive about the school and appreciate that there is discipline and academic achievement, built on a true sense of community and belonging. The children’s smiling eyes and eagerness to learn say it all. Lifetime friendships are made between parents, staff and pupils.
GES is owned by a foundation and managed by the Geneva English School Foundation. There is a board of governors, half of which is made up of annually elected parents including the chairman, several external governors and the headmaster. There is no endowment as such and nor is support solicited from other organisations, which protects the autonomy of the school and allows it to create the environment it chooses. Fees are slightly lower than the surrounding international schools.
The last word
For many parents, the Geneva English School evokes strong loyalty as they see their children thrive in a beautiful setting with a dedicated teaching staff striving for excellence in the educational, social, cultural and physical development of their children. GES is a community marked by its happy children who are self-disciplined with high moral values - values they take with them for the rest of their lives.
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