Geneva English School has just announced the location of its new international secondary campus to be opened in September 2017.
Taking over a significant portion of the ground floor of the newly-built Modulis Business Park in Versoix, the campus will benefit from an ultra-modern, open-plan design that will inspire progressive learning within a state-of-the art environment.
Comparing the new location to the current primary campus in Genthod, headmaster Tim Meunier told knowitall.ch, “Geneva English School is one of the most highly respected primary schools in the region. Established in 1961, it has a strong tradition for providing a caring, community-oriented education that nurtures individual pupils and ensures that the personal and academic development of every child is met.”
He continued, “When we saw the new location for our secondary campus, we knew immediately that this was the perfect place for us to begin the development of the next phase of our school: a secondary campus which encompasses all the best qualities of our primary school, in particular its small-school ethos, but which takes advantage of all that a brand new building can offer in terms of 21st century learning.”
Dirk Jan Postel (left) and Tim Meunier (right)
Creating a new school from scratch means the environment will be totally fit-for-purpose. Renowned Dutch educational architect Dirk Jan Postel, a partner at Kraaijvanger Architects in The Netherlands, is designing the interior environment. Describing his plans for the school, he said, “In contrast with schools of the past, where you have classrooms along a corridor, we are creating an inspiring atmosphere with contrasting elements suited for different functions: soft and quiet; technical and dynamic; primitive and raw; sophisticated and refined. The space should not only teach the children knowledge, but enable them to co-operate, be creative in a group, and learn how to learn.”
Showing us around the new campus building, Tim Meunier found it hard to contain his enthusiasm! His vision to create a “community of inquiry” is reflected in all aspects of the school’s design proposal. Standing in one corner of the building he cited numerous examples of how the open-plan, modular design using glass partitions will encourage all those connected with the school to work more closely with each other.
“Our teachers won’t need a large staffroom,” he told us. “They can meet in the cafeteria with other staff members, where they will find parents as well as students chatting about school. Lessons will be much more transparent…literally and metaphorically… as anyone passing by a classroom will be able to see what is going on inside! Our idea for the library is to have books available all throughout the school, so if you walk out of the science labs, you may encounter text books on History…so in the end, we have a truly integrated school that encourages communication at all levels, across all departments.”
He continued, “Our Head of Sport is now in the process of creating a really exciting programme for our students, where sport is really embedded into the heart of the school curriculum. So, for example, our students may start with a 15-minute series of exercises that prepares them for their first lesson of the day, be it French, Geography or Science, in a more holistic way than they have experienced in the past.”
Not only does Tim want to create his own truly interconnected community of learners, he also wants to make sure that the school is well integrated with the local community. For example, students will have the opportunity to do sport at local clubs and fitness centers, joining local teams wherever possible. There will be a strong emphasis on integrating French, and other languages, into all aspects of the curriculum, so students no longer see words as something they simply need to translate in lessons, but more part of their daily living.
Tim added, “We want our students to be motivated to learn so our aim is to give them reasons for learning that extend way beyond, say, simply learning a new language. Children need to understand about cultural differences, and how languages have evolved before they can start to learn a new language. It is this enthusiasm for learning that we believe will truly set our students apart from others, giving them the edge not only in public examinations, but for the rest of their life in the world beyond school.”
When the secondary campus opens its doors in September 2017, Geneva English School will welcome students from Years 7, 8 and 9, with additional years being added as students advance through the school. The school’s current Year 7 children are already getting a glimpse of what life will be like next year when the new school opens. A single secondary classroom, designed last year by the same architect, Dirk Jan Postel, contains tessellating tables to optimise different learning opportunities; from individual work, to small or big group collaborations. There is also what’s called The Cube; a snug ‘room-within-a-room’ for quiet relaxed study and discussions, plus a white-wall (an entire wall-and-floor-whiteboard) allowing for the sharing of ideas and learning in an engaging, ‘think-big’ way.
Tim Meunier looks at the new plans with Catherine Peart, GES Secondary English and History teacher
GES has already appointed highly skilled and dynamic teachers from England for the secondary school who are making the most of the interim learning space that Dirk has designed. They will be joined over the coming months by additional staff from the current school, as well as new part-time teachers and local specialists, whose roles are expected to grow along with the school. Having joined the school in September last year, Tim Meunier will be Headmaster of both the primary and secondary campuses. His previous experience working in a range of different schools and positions, at both primary and secondary levels, will prove invaluable when leading GES into this exciting new phase of its development.
Melanie McGarry, a parent of one of the current Year 7 students told us, “You can’t fault the education happening in Year 7. The children have an energy to learn and it’s reciprocated by the teachers. The children talk about their classroom a lot. They really enjoy the space; they love their cube, their whiteboards, the different places to interact within the space; it’s much more than just a classroom to them. They like how it’s been thought out for their needs.”
She added, “I didn’t feel that I was taking a risk by selecting GES Secondary for my daughter, not at all!” she says. “I felt I was taking more of a risk by sending her somewhere else. My choice was not just down to the academic learning, although that is very important. It was more about being certain my daughter was getting a well-rounded education. I could see the effort and attention to detail that went into the learning at GES Primary and was confident this would continue into the secondary years, which it has.”
Pupils at GES Secondary will work towards the highly acclaimed IGCSEs (International GCSEs) at Year 11, although no formal decision has yet been made about the curriculum for Years 12 and 13. However, current parents have been told that students will most likely work towards an A-Level-based examination system, which will include the best aspects of the A-Level curriculum, as well as inquiry-based elements, similar to those found in the International Baccalaureate.
“The English National Curriculum and its qualifications are recognised by the best universities around the world,” said Tim. “Combine these qualifications with inspiring, collaborative approaches to learning within a state-of-the-art environment and with the GES ethos at the core, and we absolutely believe we can succeed in developing individuals who are ready to embrace tomorrow’s world.”
Geneva English School
022 775 04 40
36 Route de Malagny
Secondary campus (opening September 2017)
Route de Suisse 160
Photo credit: Gianluca Colla