College du Leman is located in Versoix, 15 minutes by train from Gare Cornavin and a short walk from the station. I visited College du Leman (or CDL) on a rainy Wednesday afternoon; nevertheless the sport grounds were full of children playing and doing sports under the rain.
At the main reception area I was greeted by Niccolo Martini, a Senior Admissions Representative and Pascale Rollet, who is a Principal Primary Francophone and Pre-K. They showed me into a small meeting room in the reception area, where we discussed the academic structure of College du Leman and admissions procedure.
College Du Leman accepts children from 2 years old in their special pre pre-school class. There are only 12 children in the class for 2 adults – one English speaking and one French speaking. Despite the children’s age, Madame Rollet stressed that this is not a crèche, but a school and they encourage children to attend all classes.
The next year children can proceed to an English, French or Bilingual pre-school class. I was explained that a choice of the programme is ultimately the parents’ decision, but school may advise which would be a more appropriate class for a particular child. The bilingual class is more challenging, although it does not usually reflect on the academic performance. If the class turns out to be too difficult for a particular child, it is always possible to change for a monolingual programme.
Before the third year of pre-school, parents have to choose the language that the child will first learn to read. Children start reading at the age of 5-6 and the school believes that it would be easier to master reading in one language. The bilingual class separates into a class with dominant English (70% English; 30% French) and a class with dominant French (70% French 30% English). In the middle school, the bilingual classes again have the 50/50 English/French split.
In pre-school and primary school, children can easily change the programme they are studying from bilingual to monolingual and vice versa, but it gets progressively more difficult as they get to the middle and high school.
There are no formal examinations in the course of the study, other than teacher assessments and reports 2 or 3 times a year. They are available to parents on the school portal where they can also check their child’s schedule and ongoing progress. The school also encourages the parents to discuss any concern they may have with a relevant teacher or a principal after making an appointment.
Although College Du Leman is an international school and 60% of children come from expat families, the biggest nationality group is still the Swiss, followed by French, UK and American children. Around 13% of children are boarders with many coming from Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. The school encourages children to maintain and learn their mother tongues and it is possible to have additional mother tongue classes (depending on availability of teachers).
The majority of children from expat families stay in College Du Leman for 5-7 years before moving to a different school, the rest are continuing their education in College Du Leman till graduation. This also means that the school caters for international families and makes an effort to accommodate students even on a short notice in the middle of the academic year (See more on the admissions process here).
Unfortunately, the Wednesday afternoon was not the best day for visit as the majority of the children have a short day (I wish I was told that at the time of booking my appointment!), so I could not see a class in progress or meet any teachers, but Mr Martini showed me the pre-school building and some of the sport grounds.
The door to the pre-school building was locked, and I was explained that the school takes security very seriously: the doors are locked and there are security cameras everywhere.
The rooms seemed well equipped if rather small.
I was also shown the indoor gym covered with mats following the judo session that morning and a large canteen with children finishing their afternoon snack and preparing to leave for the bus service.
The school is especially proud of their lunch service and nutrition programme. College Du Leman has partnered with Scolarest, well-known nutrition company specialising in catering to schools, in order to provide healthy and nutritious food to students. The lunch and snacks are freshly prepared every day at school and the weekly menu is available on CDL’s website.
Just outside the pre-school building, there is a well groomed basketball court.
At the train station on the way back from the school I saw two high school girls in the CDL’s sports uniform chatting lively to each other. When I asked them if they enjoyed their time at school, they did not have a bad word to say about it . They both agreed that College Du Leman was a very good school with excellent facilities and caring teachers. This must be the most valuable of all opinions I heard about CDL.