Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, is a popular tourist destination and home to Wingate School, founded in 1982 by two British teachers. CurrencyFair caught up with their son and current owner Jon Green about the school, life on the island, and coping with recent challenges.
‘'My parents moved to Tenerife 50 years ago as teachers and started working in a school in the north of the island,'' Green says.
‘'They only planned to be here for a couple of years. The school they moved to was splitting into two factions. My dad was handed the keys and at 26 was told he was the new headmaster.
‘'They were there for a while and then tourism started in the south of Tenerife and the airport opened up, and they thought there might be more British visitors. So, on teacher's wages every weekend they travelled south to search for locations for a new school. The only location they could find was an old hostel in a remote village in the mountains.
So, 39 years ago they bought this little hostel and knocked rooms into classrooms, working on weekends. Every year the school got a little bigger, the first year there were seven paying kids. Now we have around 430 students.”
Developing the whole student
The school aims to instil students with the family values, knowledge and skills, and the strength of character to make a positive contribution to wider society.
‘'One of the philosophies we have is to focus on education first and profit last,'' Green admits. ‘'We have very low student to teacher ratios, about 13 students to each member of staff. With small groups the teaching quality is really high.
‘'A lot of our students leave with a really good work ethic and a high level of English. Just seeing the kids turn into decent human beings is really satisfying. Sowing the seeds of consciousness and being thoughtful of others, and surrounding people with different nationalities, makes them more multicultural.”
Community response to crisis
As the global pandemic hit, the school focused on supporting its students, parents, and staff, helping them through the crisis, despite being closed for the whole summer term.
‘'We gave our parents a massive discount during the pandemic,'' Green explains. ‘'It cost the school �360,000, all our profits and savings. Ultimately, we are a community, and our parents were struggling.
‘'We also had a furlough system here in Spain, similar to the UK. The government paid 70 percent of the wages, and we paid the additional 30 percent. So, all of our staff received a full wage. In times of crisis, you know who your friends are, I think.
‘'Brexit hit us hard because a lot of British people went back to the UK, our numbers went down then but have since recovered. Then during the pandemic, tourism in the south of the island slowed down, and most of our parents work in something related to tourism, or their clients do, so it has affected us a lot.
‘'With Brexit of course there is a challenge employing British staff, so we are looking at hiring Irish people. We need native English speakers and people with EU passports. We are going to have a lot of Spanish kids with Irish accents,” he jokes.
Favourable exchange rates
In looking after the business side of the school, Jon Green is used to paying suppliers in the UK for the purchase of books and educational materials. With frequent international transactions, he was looking for a way to minimise costs.
''I started using CurrencyFair personally to transfer money, I just couldn't believe how expensive it was to use the banks here,'' Green admits. ‘'I remember saving myself around �50 and thought it would be good to use for the school.
''In our accounting system we have a file for CurrencyFair. A few times a year, when the exchange rates are favourable for us, we place a big order to buy what we need. We must have saved thousands using CurrencyFair over the years.
‘'I like having a dedicated IBAN to give to someone when we need to receive funds. Also, the speed of transfers is a major factor. Being able to set up recurring payments also saves a lot of time and it's so much easier than asking someone for their bank details.”
Up and coming
''The south of Tenerife is definitely up and coming, it always had a reputation for being a bit tacky, 18-30 clubs, alcohol and sunshine, but that is all changing,'' Green adds.
''There is amazing greenery in the North, beautiful beaches, mountains, really nice things to do. Costa Adeje, just up from Las Americas, has lots of 5-star hotels, golf courses, and shopping centres. Anyone who goes there will be pleasantly surprised. It's really changing its image.
''People take their image of Tenerife from Las Americas, where all the nightclubs are, but that is only a very small part of the island. The cost of living in Tenerife is inexpensive, the weather is great, and it's certainly coming up a lot.
After weathering the dual storms of Brexit and the pandemic, Wingate School is continuing its mission of nurturing and supporting its students and community. For all concerned, the future certainly looks bright.
Teachers from Ireland wishing to find out about opportunities at Wingate School can get more information here.