GES Co-founders visit the current Primary campus

Date Posted: Thursday 09 March 2023

In February 2023, Mr Richard Smouha and his wife Sylvia, co-founders of Geneva English School in 1961, came to visit the Primary campus in Genthod with their daughter Caroline, to meet Mr Williams, current Head.

Thanks to their excellent memories, we travelled back in time in 1961 when it all began…

In 1961, Mr Benton from the UK mission first contacted a group of British families to ask whether they would be willing to open a British school in Geneva. The school was subsequently founded on 14 Rue Baulacre with 7 children. Mrs Walker was the first teacher, and after only a year the school expanded to 20 children. Sylvia became secretary straightaway, contacting new British families to sign up their children.

By 1963 the number of pupils had expanded to 40 and a larger building was needed. The school relocated first to the Ecole Migros in Rue du Prince and Mrs Monica Hannevold was appointed headmistress. In 1964, Sylvia found a large house at 39 bis route de Malagnou where the rent was just 500 CHF per month. The building is in fact still a Primary school now.

In 1967 the school moved to empty village school premises in Vésenaz with around 100 pupils and, following the appointment of Denis Unsworth as the third Headmaster in 1972, a long search for new premises began in the early 1980s. This eventually led to the identification of the current and magnificent ‘Petit Malagny’ site in Genthod, where GES Primary is still located.

GES Primary was officially opened during Sports Day in 1989.

Caroline, Mr and Mrs Smouha’s daughter, was happy to share her memories and pictures with us during their visit.

She started at school in 1966 (in Malagnou) at the age of 4 until 1973 (in Vésenaz) when she left GES in Year 6. Caroline fondly remembered Mr Unsworth as a dynamic teacher in Year 6, as well as residential trips which remain an important part of school life at GES.

An overnight camping trip to Aosta:

From left to right: Niell, Ole Hanson, Bill, Carolyn, Mary, Caroline, and Zoe

Camping in Nyon:

A great week-long skiing trip up in Rougemont:

Sports days and races against other schools:

To this day, Caroline looks back on those days with many fun and nice memories of the school. She specifically remembers once bouncing down the school steps thinking “I’m so happy here”.

Our current parents, students and teachers still feel this laughter and joy in the playground and classrooms at GES today.

We were delighted to welcome Mr Smouha and his family back to Geneva English School.

We look forward to welcoming them again soon, in particular to visit our now established Secondary School which opened in March 2018.