The smaller side of schooling.jpg

The smaller side of schooling

By RUTH SHARPE

ruth@portugalresident.com

FOR FAMILIES who choose to relocate to the Western Algarve, they often have to sacrifice a few living essentials that they’re used to having at their fingertips. Education used to be one of these, but it appears that this is no longer the case.

In 2002, Vale Verde International School (VVIS) relocated to a new site in Burgau, near Praia da Luz, meaning that the school has now become the leading institution for secondary education in the Western Algarve.

However, last year tragedy hit the school with the sudden death of headmaster Nicolas Martin. In August, Roger Foreman took on the role and the school is now thriving once more.

Although the school is only made up of about 40 pupils, the relatively small number means that all students benefit from attentive, one-on-one teaching from a highly experienced and qualified group of teaching professionals.

Previously, parents had no choice but to send their children to the next closest English speaking school in Porches, which resulted in tiring, long days for the youngsters. Now, VVIS offers an alternative for parents seeking a good level of education for their children, within close proximity to their home.

After observing and speaking with pupils around the school, it is evident that they are happy in their surroundings and enjoy the day to day life at Vale Verde.

The classrooms are vibrant and provide pupils with all the essentials they need to progress through the curriculum. Most importantly there is a very positive atmosphere throughout the faculty and students.

The all-weather sports area allows the students to play football, tennis, basketball and volleyball in a safe environment. Sport is always a popular choice among students and something Vale Verde hopes to develop and integrate into student life as much as possible.

Many students spoke of how they chose not to enrol in larger international schools in the Algarve as they felt “settled in their area” and were “confident in the quality of education they were receiving.”

The school curriculum follows that of England, offering all core subjects, such as English, Maths, General Science, French, Portuguese, Geography, History, I.C.T, Art, Drama and Physical Education, most of which lead to the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) administered by Cambridge University.

In Year nine, individual sciences are introduced (Chemistry, Physics and Biology), as well as Business Studies. Pupils are offered the option of English Literature as an IGCSE course from Year 10.

In Years 10 and 11 pupils are encouraged to play to their strengths when embarking on their IGCSEs. Rather than choosing your exam subjects immediately Vale Verde request that pupils study 12 subjects throughout these two years, which then lead to IGCSEs in eight or nine of these. Vale Verde has recently begun teaching A-levels and hopes to develop their limited subject choice over the next few years.

The school has recently incorporated Food and Nutrition into the curriculum, a move proving especially popular among younger students. The presence of an I.C.T lab is also vital to the running of the school as it is a skill that interchanges between all subjects and lets the students venture into the world of publishing and film-making.

Music is a developing sector of the school and the children seem enthusiastic to push it as much as possible. Another bonus of the small numbers at Vale Verde is that pupils can be very communicative with the teaching staff about what they would like to see introduced into their daily routine. The teachers therefore are always keen to listen so they can implement the most effective route towards these goals.

The school backs up the policy that smaller class sizes work with pleasing statistics that boast a 100 per cent pass rate in all IGCSE exams taken by students in all subjects.

The latest news from Vale Verde is that it has been given permission to develop a primary school to join with the current secondary school buildings. With children enrolling already, the school looks set to open in September, 2007.

   For more information on VVIS call 282 697 205 or visit www.vvis.org