The British School of Geneva is located on the busy main road though Châtelaine, Verier on the right bank of Lake Geneva. The building is modern, but reminds more of an office block than a school. Indeed, it took me a while to find it, despite a big sign at the front, just because I did not expect to find a school in that kind of building.
The entrance is secured with a buzzer, but I was let in by a very courteous student who showed me into the reception area and even called the director when I could not see anyone in the office. Raji Sundaram, the school’s Principal asked me to wait before showing me into her office.
Mrs Sundaram explained that the British School of Geneva is the only school in the area which offers all levels of British education from year one up to the A-levels. The school is the smallest of all international schools with only one class per year and a maximum of 16 students per class. Classes preparing for A-levels are even smaller, with only 10 students per class, which means that children get plenty of individual attention. This allows the teachers to track the students’ progress effectively, supporting children who are a little behind the programme, and pushing the ones who have already learned the material.
Mrs Sundaram was unsure of the amount of homework the children get per day, but agreed that it must be around 20 minutes in the primary school, mostly focused on reading. The homework in the senior school and, especially the A levels, increases dramatically, reaching several hours a day.
French is taught 3 hours a week from year 1 (there is no reception class in the school), but other languages are not included in the curriculum. There is a language centre in the basement of the building and children can study other languages extracurricular. The school also does not have dedicated sport facilities, instead they are using a sport centre close by. There is a choice of extracurricular activities in sport, music and drama, which vary from year to year.
The school has an after school care until 5 30, where children are looked after by a member of staff, but no homework support. There is also a school bus, which can pick up children from the right bank of lake Geneva, canton Vaud and neighbouring France, but for some reason not the left bank or central Geneva.
In general Mrs Sundaram agreed that British School of Geneva is similar to other private schools in the UK. They follow the same curriculum, so children should be able to transfer back to private schools in England if their parents move. The student body changes about 10-15% each year. After the A-levels most students go to universities in the UK and Canada, but Mrs Sundaram did not specify any particular ones.
Because the school is so small, the parents are advised to start the application process at least 8 months in advance. British School of Geneva would consider taking a student in the middle of the academic year if there are available spaces, but I had the impression that it would be difficult to get in on a short notice. For children who are coming from similar educational backgrounds (like UK, US or Canada) the school requests only a school report. Children previously studying at other education systems will have to sit an evaluation. I was referred to the website for further details on admission.
All in all I can say that this was the shortest school visit I ever had, in and out in under 30 minutes. Mrs Sundaram volunteered very little information and just briefly answered the questions I prepared in advance. Instead of a general discussion I got used to having during other school visits, here it seemed like I was just reading my list of questions. It almost felt like Mrs Sundaram could not wait for me to leave.
Mrs Sundaram and all her colleagues were also too busy to show me around the school, so all I could see was the entrance hall and the rather untidy reception area. Perhaps, it was a bad day; perhaps they had some kind of emergency at school that they could not devote me any more time, despite me booking this visit a few months in advance. May be it is unfair to extend the attitude of the principal to the otherwise perfectly acceptable school, but somehow when Mrs Sundaram suggested I return for the school tour the other time, I did not feel like I wanted to come back there again.