• Pretty, quiet and rural setting
• Warm welcome
• Heritage building
The first thing that strikes us about Invictus is how small and cosy it feels. Also, located within a black and white colonial building, it feels so much more traditional and homely than your typical international school. Just a 10-minute walk from the cluster of trendy coffee shops in popular Dempsey Hill, Invictus is set within a small neighbourhood including a language school and art studio. Formerly an army barracks, this tranquil hideaway is close to central Singapore but is encircled by tropical trees and dense woodland. It is an ideal setting for a small primary school of just under 200 students.
Invictus says: “We are part of the very close-knit community here and, because we have facilities such as a dance school and art studio on our doorstep, we don’t need to pay for and have those facilities ourselves.”
Here’s a school that felt understated and welcoming, with a learning environment that’s built around nature rather than state-of-the-art facilities. It certainly won’t appeal to everyone; but while some families will be deterred by Invictus’ older, basic campus, others will be drawn to its homely, informal and rural setting.
There’s no dedicated car park for the school but there are plenty of places to park, and the majority of students travel to Invictus by the SchooBer ride service anyway. There’s a secure entrance into Invictus, and one of the benefits of having such a small school community is that the reception staff know all the children, parents, teachers and carers.
• Small and basic campus, but quick and easy to get around
• Limited facilities
• Plenty of opportunities for outdoor learning
• Close-knit community where teachers know every child by name
When you first walk into Invictus, you feel as if you have stepped into a museum as you’re surrounded by the traditional architecture of a stunning wooden heritage building. There’s a warm, caring ethos, and we were made to feel so welcome by the friendly and down to earth staff members that we met. The school is proud of its more humble campus and we liked to hear our tour guide say,
“We didn’t go around tidying everything up and making it look perfect. This is the real us.”
In contrast to the many large campuses in Singapore, it took us less than 45 minutes to walk around the entire school – and its size felt well-suited to the five to 10-year-old students who were in class.
An Invictus parent said: “I was hesitant at first as when we started at the first campus it was just three rooms. But, my son has had two incredible teachers and grown as an individual. He is always challenged enough to perform better and to work as hard as he can. There’s a sense of calm here, too. It’s not manic.”
In the main building there’s a small reception (where parents can buy uniform and school supplies), a school hall and library. A school hall is often the heart of any school, particularly a small one such as Invictus, and this room is constantly used for assemblies, shows, and the daily ‘wake and shake’ sessions.
Invictus says: “Every morning, the children dance around and get the blood moving, the heart pumping and the brain ready to go before they start their lessons.”
All classes have a daily session in the school library, which has a few shelves of books but the school is the first to admit that’s it’s small. Children in Grades 3-6 are taken on regular walking trips to the Singapore Public Library, which is just over 2km away.
Invictus says: “There’s no possible way we can resource a large school library and still be affordable. Instead, every student has their own library card which gives them access to thousands of books. It also gets up the children’s cardio! It takes us about 30 minutes to get there, we spend an hour at the library and it takes us about 45 minutes to get back – when they’re weighed down with their new books.”
The school also has a Book Week when families can donate unwanted books. It’s one of the many ways in which the school community becomes part of the growth and development of the school – and contributes to keeping costs down.
Invictus says: “If every child brought in five books, it would expand our library by 1,000 books in one week.”
The classrooms are arranged in a line outside, each having its own external entrance and overlooking the school’s wild, woodland setting. There’s one classroom for each grade, and the school has room to grow with plans to open extra classrooms in the main building. There is just one specialist teacher for Mandarin, and all other lessons are taken by the class’ homeroom teacher.
This school is surrounded by greenery, and it’s not just close to nature, it’s within it. Outdoor facilities include a sand pit, play area, swimming pool (located just across the road), and plenty of rainforest to explore.
Invictus says: “There’s tons of life out there. We have lovely outdoor space and it’s generally sunny. We facilitate our teachers to use the environment as much as possible. For still life drawings, for example, we don’t bring in the bowl of fruit, we go outside and draw some trees. There’s so much for them here that they can use, and we encourage them to be outside.”
During the tour we did get caught in one of Singapore’s many rain showers, but with umbrellas left outside every classroom we managed to stay dry!
Read our interview with former vice principal Allison O'Reilly here.
• Showcases students’ creativity
• Friendly, enthusiastic small team of teachers but no specialist teachers
• Small classrooms
Every class has a glass door, which was decorated with artwork and there were displays about explorers, dinosaurs, creative writing and much more on just about every available wall space; we liked to see the walls of the head teacher's office covered in student work. Desks are arranged in squares and rectangles and, although the classrooms are small, they felt well-resourced, cheerful and relaxed; with a teacher to student ratio of 1:25 though, the school cannot boast small class sizes to match the size of the room.
Invictus says: “Mary Ann is a firm believer in showcasing the children’s work and what they can do.”
We saw one Grade 1 class having a meditation session, a Grade 3 having a maths lesson on the floor in front on an interactive whiteboard, and a Grade 4 and 5 class seated on the floor for an art class. We felt that teachers were engaging, friendly and well-liked by the students, and the children came across as confident, happy and engaged in their lessons.
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