Interview: Cheryl Young, Rosemount International

As Rosemount International School celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, we meet its co-founder Cheryl Young to find out how why this small, family-friendly school believes that bigger is not always better.
Interview: Cheryl Young, Rosemount International
By Carli Allan
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Rosemount International School is a small primary and pre-school with a big heart. Praised by parents for its “personal touch” and for inspiring a child’s “love and enthusiasm for school”, the school has a close-knit family community that is hard to replicate at larger campuses across Singapore.

With just 140 students in kindergarten through to Grade 2, this Siglap school is built on solid family ties. Australian-born Cheryl Young co-founded the school with her daughter Alannah 20 years ago to meet the demand for international schooling from expat families living in the East Coast. Today, Alannah carries on the family tradition as principal of the school.

Here’s a school that encourages parents “to play an active role in both the school and their children’s learning and development”. Parents volunteer time and energy to class activities and events such as International Week; and rather than having a homework policy, Rosemount “believes in the importance of family time such as reading together”.

Another familiar face at this school is Ng Siew Lan, known to everyone as “Auntie”, who prepares all lunches, morning and afternoon snacks for the children; apparently, pancakes every Thursday is a particular favourite!

For more information about fees and learning at Rosemount, read our review here.

As Rosemount celebrates two decades of teaching more than 4,000 students, we talk to Cheryl about how parents, teachers and children have found the advantages in belonging to a small school.

Rosemount International School enrols just 140 students. What are the benefits of attending a small school?

The greatest advantage – in fact the very reason that we have a small school – is because we all know all of our children and all of our parents. Our small school is almost a ‘village’. We have small class sizes, so every teacher in the school will know your child’s name not just their class teacher.

We have a strong sense of school community here. For example, our Grade 1 and Grade 2 children recently started to take their reading books to the nursery class to share their skills. We can have a settling-in process that is personal and adapts to every child and their family. And our parents are always welcome to pop by and be a mystery reader or chat to their teacher.

Although you may lack the state-of-the-art facilities of larger all-through schools, can you still offer your students a well-rounded education?

We have a team of high quality teaching staff, who are all university educated. We prefer to recruit teachers that are not trailing spouses but have a sense of purpose about their career and want to move it forward with an overseas opportunity.

Also, we are equipped with good teaching resources, and we often get feedback from our staff that the resources for a small-sized school are excellent. We can be flexible and bring in different or more resources if required.

Since founding the school in 1999 as a kindergarten, you have expanded into a junior school for Grades 1-2. Are there plans to roll out Grades 3 and above in the future? 

Our current classes are very popular, so I think we have more than enough with providing quality education to Grade 2! We want to focus on these particular ages and feel that a small school environment is the best for these children at this stage.

We have been doing this for 20 years now, and so we’ve picked up a few pointers along the way!

Taken in 1999, this photo features the school's 'Auntie', who has worked at Rosemount for 20 years preparing all the lunches and snacks for the children.

What have been the challenges of running an international school in Singapore?

Apart from the normal challenges of all schools probably our biggest task has been maintaining the personal interaction we have with all of our children and all of our parents.

Rosemount is a family-run school. What are the advantages of having mother and daughter as co-founders of a school?

Above all, it’s knowing that the head of school – our guiding force – has exactly the same approach and level of care for students that I do. We both believe that a positive early-childhood and primary education experience can set off a chain-reaction that inspires a life-long love of learning.

How do parents play an active role in the school?

As their child's first teacher, parents are encouraged to be involved in their school experience. We have a remarkable community of parents who volunteer their time and energy to the school in numerous ways.

For example, we have an International Week every May where we celebrate and learn about every nationality in the school (there’s currently around 20). Each child is given a Rosemount passport and will ‘travel’ to each country to learn about the culture. We set up different country stalls in our basement area and the children love to come and see how each country is represented. We have wonderful parents who commit time and effort to help make such events very special.

As the original founder, how are you still involved in the running of the school?

I’m still involved in every aspect, from recruiting and helping teachers to settle in to understanding the school’s approach to learning.

I’m here constantly to see for myself that each student has a high level of care and to be a touch point for parents. I also enjoy knowing each child and seeing them grow and develop. I even enjoy lunchtime duty!

You and your daughter Alannah are both Australian. Have you brought any of Australia’s teaching methods to the curriculum at Rosemount?

We follow a blended inquiry-based curriculum here, which draws on the International Baccalaureate (IB) PYP framework together with the best of the UK and Australian Early Years programmes.

We have created our own blended curriculum, which prepares our students for studying anywhere in the world, at any type of school.

Where do your primary students typically continue their education? And do your students easily transition from here to an IB or British school?

It’s very important to us at Rosemount that a child feels prepared for their next step, whether that’s moving to another country, to big school, or to an international or local school.

We have a mix of students here but the aim is that they will all be confident and resilient to make that social step change and not worry about the academic side. They will ask questions and be who they are. Our learner profile is key to setting the stage for learning, and our children feel empowered to ask questions. So, whether they go on to study in the IB or a British system, they can confidently go in knowing the fundamental elements are in place.

Your fees for primary education are among the lowest for an international school in Singapore. How can you deliver a quality education for less?

We are a one-site school on smaller premises in the East Coast of Singapore and so we do not have the huge overheads of other sites. We value the quality of teaching above all – and focus on making sure that the curriculum is delivered to its maximum potential.

And finally… what do you and Alannah enjoy doing in your spare time?

I value spending time with my grandchildren. Alannah enjoys being active – snowboarding, surfing and travelling. She also loves her Bernese Mountain Dog Bear, who the children love when she visits the school.

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