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The school in Singapore full of Welsh teachers

By April 22, 2024No Comments

Hearing Welsh spoken in school is common place for many children – but in Singapore?

An international school on the island nation in south east Asia has five Welsh teachers and even has an Eisteddfod thanks to headteacher Edward Jones.

Mr Jones and his family moved from Cardiff in 2016 after he and his wife decided they wanted a new

EtonHouse International School was a tempting offer, with classes half the size of those in Wales and paperwork-free evenings.

Mr Jones had been the headteacher of Ysgol Gymraeg Cwmbrân in Torfaen for 30 years, and though he loved the school, was ready for a new challenge.

“I had to go somewhere – it was a bit of Groundhog Day,” he said.

He described living a middle class life in Cardiff, with a four-bedroom house and a garden, cutting the grass and hedges every week.

Having grown disillusioned with this, he added: “I spoke to my wife, we had a chat one Friday night and made the decision, and then started making plans in secret and put the house on the market.”

They sold their house and used to money to travel to 15 countries – including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and the USA, educating their children themselves.

They funded their trip by looking after people’s houses and pets while they were away.

But Mr Jones began to miss teaching and realised it was time to use his skills in one of the places they visited.

He got a job at Craighouse School, in Santiago, Chile, for two years, with his children having to learn Spanish to do their schoolwork and chat to their new friends.

In 2019, Mr Jones then got a headteacher job in Singapore – landing on Christmas Day.

Three weeks later, Covid hit and the family had to cope in a new country with strict restrictions on daily life and travel.

Moe than four years later, the headteacher has settled in and put a Welsh stamp on the school.

“There were six or seven here, a couple went home last year for family reasons but, we’ve still got five from Wales – three of them are Welsh-speaking.”

They speak Welsh in the teachers’ room, while pupils sing happy birthday to the headmaster in the language, and even learnt Calon Lân for a service.

EtonHouse International School has 430 pupils between nursery age and 11, from 35 different countries.

Many of the teachers are also from abroad and so celebrating different cultures comes naturally.

One of the highlights every June is the school Eisteddfod – with everyone having the opportunity to compete.

There’s even a chairing ceremony.

The children also speak the language in morning assemblies, thanks to the Welsh-language song Sgwennu Stori by Gildas.

“I introduce the song to the children and explain that it mentions that everyone is writing a story from their own life,” he said.

It’s a song that creates hiraeth for me too – I used to play it at Ysgol Gymraeg Cwmbrân, then took it to Chile and played it to 900 children at that school, and now Singapore.”

He added the school benefits from having staff from Wales as children learn about a different culture.

“Some of the teachers joke that you have to come from Wales and speak Welsh to teach here, but I don’t accept just anyone, I want the best teachers possible,” he added.

He believes Welsh teachers tend to be creative and bring a positive spirit, adding: “Which is important in a school like this.”

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