The announcement of the launch of Middleton International School by the Eton House Group attracted considerable attention at the end of 2016. Expatriates looking for a cheaper schooling option for their children were promised fees starting at $18,000 a year. This fee level is 40 per cent less than the average fee of $30,000 charged by top-end international schools – including EtonHouse itself at its Singapore schools.
At first sight, this seems to be an encouraging offering for Singapore-based parents, but inevitably, with such a reduced fee level, there are compromises. Mr Ng Yi Xian, executive director of Eton House, said
“We feel the need to offer an affordable international school programme founded on academic rigour and a strong bilingual foundation. The school can cut operating costs through relatively lower rent, using external spaces for sports and other co-curricular activities, and economies of scale from running many schools in Singapore”.
One significant compromise will be class sizes that will eventually be larger than those in other schools, with 28 children in each class. The new school is housed in an existing facility operated by EtonHouse – the EtonHouse 215BM Pre-school campus for children from pre-Nursery to Kindergarten 2. It seems, therefore, that Middleton International is a logical expansion from the pre-school to Primary – the same approach that EtonHouse has recently taken at its Thomson and Sentosa campuses.
The choice of name for Middleton for the Primary School perhaps reflects a desire to see a separate brand for the less costly school model. Fees in the co-located pre-school, at SGD$ 22,000, are higher than the Primary School fees at SGD$ 19,300.
Middleton International School is located in Upper Bukit Timah. Classrooms open up into common spaces including a library, a performing arts space and tinkering studio. A multi-purpose covered games court, indoor and outdoor playgrounds are located on Level 5 and provide students with large and specifically designed open spaces for physical development.
External space around the school is limited. Sports such as swimming and football – which might ordinarily be expected to feature in the school PE programme - will instead be held in external facilities as part of the ECA programme.
Middleton offers the International Primary Curriculum and the Singapore Ministry of Education curriculum for Mathematics and Chinese. The IPC is a comprehensive curriculum, based on the English National Curriculum with references to the UK Key Stages 1 and 2, but adapted for international schools, with reference to the IB (International Baccalaureate) inquiry-based approach to learning.
The new school caters for children from Primary 1 to Primary 5 - with a strong second language foundation in Chinese and English as Foreign languages. However, the dual teacher arrangement operated in other EtonHouse schools (one English-speaking and one Chinese-speaking native per class), which enables EtonHouse to deliver a strong bilingual programme, is not in evidence at Middleton.
The Middleton curriculum incorporates integrated specialist programmes including performing arts, and PE along with co-curricular learning to cater to a wide range of interests, styles and talents. Technology is integrated into lessons across the curriculum, which provides opportunities for individual, small group and whole class learning. Children are encouraged to be independent thinkers and take responsibility of their learning. The curriculum aims to develop 21st century skills and develop successful and happy individuals who are compassionate, responsible and active global citizens.
Middleton International School opened in January 2017 with 5 full-time staff plus the Principal (also teaching full-time) and initially planned to offer 1 class per grade. Atima Joshi, the Principal is an experienced educator and has been with EtonHouse since 2003. She holds a Bachelor of Science (Honours) Degree from the University of Delhi, India and a Master of Education Degree from RMIT University in Victoria, Australia. Atima has worked as a Hindi teacher, ESL teacher, Year 2 and Year 3 Classroom teacher and has taught students in age ranges from 3 years to 11 years at EtonHouse International School, Broadrick.
Reflecting the close links that Middleton wishes to establish with EH Broadrick, Martin Hughes, Principal at Broadrick, is also a member of the Senior management team at Middleton. In his time with Eton House, he has led schools in China in Singapore. There are 2 other members of the Academic Board at Middleton - Emer Eileen Mills O’Hara, (a specialist in Performing Arts) and Christopher Barrie Hansford, who has 15 years UK KS1, KS2 and PYP experience, together with Teaching English as a Foreign Language training.
The 3rd member of the Academic Board is Gladys Ang, a Singaporean teacher. She spent 5 years teaching Mathematics and Mandarin to students undertaking the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) Primary Checkpoint Programme and Cambridge International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) whilst teaching in Indonesia and therefore brings with her the Secondary experience that Middleton hopes to need at some future point.
Middleton will place a strong emphasis on student assessment and feedback to parents. Parents will share progress through portfolios in Terms 2 and 4, a Parent-teacher conference in Term 1, a target-setting approach “next steps in learning’ reflection” in Term 3 and a Student-led conference in Term 4. In June and November standardised testing are designed to help teachers understand individual as well as group needs, in order to amend the programme of learning for the second half of the year. Progress reports are issued twice a year in June and December.
Teachers encourage parental involvement by inviting parents to review and reflect on their child’s learning through encouraging discussions at home. Teachers’ fortnightly newsletters are designed to help parents develop an understanding of the class programme.
ICT and Languages are key areas of the curriculum on which the school intends to focus. The Information Computing Technology (ICT) programme is based on the UK National Curriculum. Students learn the principles of information and computation, how digital systems work, and how to put this knowledge to use through programming. The curriculum also aims to ensure that students are responsible, competent, confident and creative users of information and communication technology, use technology safely, respectfully and responsibly, recognise acceptable/unacceptable behaviour and identify a range of ways to report concerns about content and contact.
The Chinese and English EAL programmes are designed to reflect the focus within the Eton House schools and pre-schools on bi-lingualism. Middleton will build on the bilingual programme already in place in the pre-school with which it is co-located and from which, presumably, it aims to attract Primary school students. The initial staffing (including a Chinese-language specialist and an EAL specialist) reflects this intent. Middleton also indicates that additional languages will be offered as the school grows.
The school states that "Middleton International School intends to offer a well-rounded education that balances a rigorous curriculum with after school activities that are challenging and enjoyable". The school encourages students to work hard and to play hard and offers diverse extra-curricular activities ranging from sporting, artistic, cultural to recreational activities. Besides teacher-led ECAs offered at no additional cost, ECAs are conducted by external vendors at a separate fee.
No doubt parents with children approaching Primary School will appreciate the lower fees that Middleton International School offers, but parents also need to be aware of the reasons behind these fees. In part, Eton House appears to be aiming at growing its Primary business, whilst testing a more cost-effective version of the existing offerings at EH Broadrick, EH Thomson and EH Sentosa.
It seems that there is a vigorous effort being made to grow student numbers at EH Broadrick through the expansion of the pre-schools to Primary.
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