International schools join forces, boosting Algarve’s A-level education

It is a groundbreaking move for international education in the Algarve and it is now official.
The International School of the Algarve (EIA) in Porches, Lagoa, and the International School of São Lourenço in Almancil have joined forces for a merger which, they say, will create more opportunities for students to take their A-levels in the Algarve.
“It is a victory for everyone,” Andreas Schelfhout, the chairman of the company that runs the Lagoa school, told the Resident, saying that many students who would normally go abroad to take A-level courses will now have a much wider variety of subjects to choose from, as a result of the shared human and material resources between the two schools.
“The Algarve has had a very small choice of A-level subjects before this, because each school has not had enough students to offer variety,” Schelfhout told us.
“But we believe our merger will now offer students a much wider selection of courses and a chance to stay in the Algarve. São Lourenço School had three A-level courses. We have 21,” he said, hoping that the increased variety will also spare parents’ pockets in the process.
Schelfhout explained that the whole deal is “very much about translating both of the schools’ strengths into more options for education, sports, culture and other academic areas”.
This is the second merger deal that EIA has successfully closed in less than a year. Last August it affiliated with the Barlavento International Primary School in Espiche. The moves are all interrelated.
The idea, the EIA director told us, is to offer junior school education on a local level (Espiche, Porches and Almancil) and centralise middle and secondary education in Porches. Teachers will also be transferring between schools to maximise the group’s human resources.
And because they are all part of the same school group, the head of EIA believes children will have no problem integrating when the time comes to move on to middle and secondary education.
“They will all do activities together, go on field trips together, participate in sporting competitions together… transitions between schools will be natural and without the emotional backlash of having to integrate into a new atmosphere.”
There may even be the possibility of further mergers as a number of other schools are reported to be interested in joining forces with EIA.
“With a bit of tranquillity and good sense, we’ll meet with these establishments and assess whether or not they could be adequate partners,” Schelfhout told us.
Representing São Lourenço, Constantino Jordan explained the deal had also been prompted by the economic crisis which had left the Almancil school in a “very fragile state”.
“We went from 260 students to 115 in these last few years,” he said.
Thus the two institutions began talks in October and finally came to the merger decision this month.
“The community in Almancil will continue to have an international school for its younger children, while senior students will benefit from a considerably wider choice of subjects for their A-levels,” confirmed Jordan.
“They will also have access to a better learning environment and resources which now even go beyond the Porches school, not to mention extra-curricular activities which are much stronger in a bigger school.”
Jordan also made it clear that “no teachers would be losing their jobs as a result of the fusion”.
The move is due to go ahead during the summer term. The Resident will continue to follow the new school group’s progress, and report on more details as they come.
By MICHAEL BRUXO [email protected]