The not-for-profit SMMIS enrols just 275 students aged two to 16 years and offers a full-time Pre-School all the way through to Grade 10/Year 11 (IGCSEs). Though a small school in terms of numbers, it has the facilities of a big school including specialist science labs, a 450-seat auditorium, 25 metre outdoor swimming pool, and Astro-turf football pitch; it’s certainly impressive for a small-scale school.
There’s a nurturing side; for example, every new student wears a ribbon so that their peers will make them more welcome, the school serves a freshly baked afternoon snack (which smelt delicious during our visit); and there’s a Mensch (friendship) bench at the centre of the school. When it comes to student leadership, the roles may be more limited than larger school, but the chances for student participation and school representation are higher because there is a smaller pool of students. Students may feel that they have more of a stake in their school because they can really make a tangible difference.
Principal Elaine Robinson is very popular with parents; “excellent” teachers are frequently described as a strength of the school, as is its friendly and positive environment. This Jewish school is homegrown and combines all the familiarity and community feel of a small school with Jewish values, tradition and culture. It welcomes students from all faiths and nationalities (the community is made up of over 22 nationalities and students come from more than six faiths). The message from SMMIS is very clear: don’t miss the opportunity to have its values-based education because your family is not Jewish.
It also offers value for money. There’s a 15% sibling discount for the second and subsequent children (many schools offer this for the third child); the school only charges a one-off capital levy; and its annual tuition fees of just under $25,000 for primary include local field trips and a daily hot meal.
The general feedback from parents is that SMMIS is a very welcoming, community school that provides the nurturing learning environment they are looking for. Parents make frequent references to small class sizes, excellent facilities, outstanding parent communication, and strong leadership.
Judges said the school offers families a sense of belonging and highlighted its focus on inclusivity, with the "Mensch Bench" being a wonderful example.
Anita Simpson, Head of School, American International School in Hong Kong, said:
"The small school size promotes a strong sense of community which is something the school has intentionally fostered. This school also offers outstanding facilities that would be typically found in a big school. The only drawback is the fact that the school doesn't currently continue through to Grade 12/Year 13.”
Tanglin Trust School is a large, popular and high-achieving school that prides itself on being a big school with a small school feel. Throughout its primary/junior school, Tanglin can be relied on to deliver a very British education based on the UK curriculum - and one that prepares students well for taking IGCSEs, A Levels and the IB Diploma Programme.
Tanglin uses its size as an advantage. Students in the primary years have greater access to specialist teachers and secondary/sixth form facilities in areas like music, sport and languages. Beyond the classroom, there are 125 different co-curricular activities running every week and over 90% of Junior children take part in at least one weekly CCA. Younger students mix with older students in a positive way through house events and cross-school initiatives. And, when it comes to student leadership, the school offers a very wide variety of roles of responsibility – fun, creative and well-suited to primary. Younger student leaders wear colourful school caps bearing their leadership role with pride – everything from Sun Monitors to Planet Protectors.
The school also has a very international outlook and it has embedded Positive Education principles across its curricula through age-appropriate wellbeing initiatives. All Junior students have a Wellbeing Diary, for example, with daily tasks such as mindfulness colouring and acts of kindness.
The general feedback from parents is that despite its size, Tanglin has created individual school communities where the individual child in the primary years is well-known and supported by a team of excellent teachers. There are frequent references to personalised learning, allowing individuals to flourish and exploring each child’s potential. Families really value its holistic approach to education and well-rounded learning experiences.
Judges were impressed by Tanglin's ability to foster a sense of community and connection, in spite of its size. Anita Simpson, Head of School, American International School in Hong Kong, said:
"The school has been awarded the Wellbeing Award for Schools and the Gold Right Respecting Schools Award from UNICEF, which speaks to the focus on mindfulness and serving others. The fact that their extra-curricular activities are so well subscribed and that they offer more than 125 activities is also noteworthy."