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SVS School for English

Who we are

The SVS School for English was set up in 2006 with the aim of enabling Sri Lankans and expatriates living in Sri Lanka to develop vital, empowering English language skills to develop their confidence, to widen access to an international job market, and support them in becoming successful global citizens.
A registered charity, the English school was set up and is run by cousins Sebastian Lawrance and Mark Snellgrove, British expatriates who have called Sri Lanka home for over 20 years.
When you’re part of SVS School for English, you’re part of a family. The English school in Colombo is run according to family values, creating a close-knit, homely environment where students feel safe and supported as they build their English language skills. Students and teachers work together in class towards our vision of giving people across Sri Lanka the chance to develop their knowledge of English, the global link language.

What we do

Our mission is to provide the highest quality, affordable English language courses and training for any student who wants to learn and improve their English language skills.

We firmly believe in giving every student equal access to this important global link language, so they can develop their knowledge of English through our English classes in Colombo.

The SVS School for English conducts English courses from basic English (Elementary) to advanced English classes (Upper Intermediate & Skills courses). All English classes, regardless of the level, focus on a balanced combination of written and spoken English, so that students gain a natural fluency in the English language. Small class sizes, both written English classes and spoken English classes ensure students receive individual attention to help them achieve their goals.

How we do it

We are committed to offering our students the highest quality English classes in Colombo at the lowest possible cost. In order to do this, we operate on a self-sustaining model, where students are charged a small fee – the most affordable in Colombo – which is used to maintain the operating costs of the English school and living costs of our volunteer teachers.

Teachers at SVS School for English are volunteer teachers drawn from across the globe, adding to the multi-cultural nature of the school. Volunteer English teachers have university degrees or EFL teaching qualifications, and a passion for inspiring and engaging students to learn.

Our interactive teaching style builds a rapport between teachers and students, creating a fun and friendly classroom atmosphere. This, along with encouraging students to speak only English during school hours means they gain more confidence in conversing and using English on a daily basis.


After moving to Sri Lanka in 1997, I fell in love with the country and its people. As the time came for me to make my way into the world, I was faced with a choice: Did I want to return to England, and be sucked up into the rat-race or was there a life for me here in Sri Lanka, where I could do something worthwhile and develop myself?
The perfect opportunity presented itself when my uncle approached me with the idea of starting a school in Colombo to empower people living in Sri Lanka to improve their prospects in academic, professional and personal endeavours through high quality, affordable English language education.
It was a project I was passionate about, as it enabled me to give back to Sri Lanka, my adopted homeland that had already given me so much. With Mark’s help, we began SVS School for English in 2006, with just 8 students in a small classroom above a Pizza Hut in Kirulapone.
Over the years, I have watched the school expand, and have seen firsthand the results of our efforts, as our students tell us about their improved academic success or how job opportunities have opened up for them as a result of attending the school.
Today, SVS School has its own dedicated building with multiple classrooms, and in the years since our inception, we’ve given thousands of students the chance to develop their English language skills. Every day, as I experience how whole-heartedly appreciative and enthusiastic our students are to learn English, I know I definitely made the right choice all those years ago.


I spent a number of years in Sri Lanka before going to university in England. After I graduated, I taught at a primary school in England for a couple of years, before I decided to take a year off to see more of the world and expand my horizons.
I travelled to many Asian countries including India and Cambodia and was profoundly struck by the huge appreciation most Asian people have for education of any kind. They see it as a crucial step to improving their life chances and for me, it was a joy to be given the opportunity to help them increase that scope by joining Sebastian in setting up SVS School for English.
In creating the school, we were especially conscious of the realisation that reputable English courses with a strong English standard are often unreasonably expensive for an average student. We strongly believe that personal financial circumstances should not be a limiting factor to learning English, which is why we endeavor to offer our courses at affordable prices.
Even when we first began, we charged just enough to cover the cost of running the school, so that we wouldn’t have to depend on external funding. We knew we were doing some right when, in less than a year, our little school grew into a thriving centre for learning English.
Today, we continue to use the self-sustaining model we began with and I am so happy that it has given our students the privilege of learning a valuable skill that expands their world. Their eagerness to learn makes teaching them a pleasure, and having students from a range of different countries, makes the whole experience even more special. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

A project in the spirit of hands-across-the-sea began in 1995 when an expatriate Sri Lankan and his English wife returned to the island of his birth, after 38 years in the UK. He saw the opportunities for the improvement of health care facilities in the beautiful rural hills of the island and the Samanala Valley Foundation began. The word Samanala means butterfly in the local lingo and the project was named after them when he saw a sea of yellow butterflies fly in a sort of pilgrimage to the stunning holy mountain called ‘Sri Pada’ or ‘Adam’s Peak’, only to end their short lives there.
The mountain marked the central topographical venue of the area and is a symbol of spiritual hope to millions. In this spirit, the project grew to provide an impressively equipped hospital that over the years has welcomed highly distinguished medical practitioners in teams from all over the globe. Different medical disciplines provide medical care for tens of thousands of people, but in recent years has specialized in cataract and ophthalmic surgical and medical relief and is part of the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health Vision 2020 W.H.O. initiative. All the services are provided free of charge.
This highly successful medical project, bringing the finest medical expertise through the zeal and volunteering spirit of sympathetic doctors, nurses and other ancillary medical staff, is situated on a tea estate in stunning scenery. The estate itself forms part of the charitable aegis where the workers benefit from its output in terms of jobs and welfare schemes. The whole project is a donation and all fiscal returns are used in-house, with any profits made ploughed back into the scheme.
The Samanala Valley Foundation is the umbrella registered charity organization that oversees the function of the purpose built hospital facilities and a more recent project in the City of Colombo, a School for the teaching of the English language as a global link language, was started in 2006.
The Samanala Valley School for English has been run by the donor’s extended family of UK nationals and other mainly UK-based teachers, many of whom volunteer their services for six monthly stints after qualification in world renowned universities in the UK. Some stay longer captured by a sense of the joy of worthwhile service.
Ten years after the founding of the Samanala Valley Project Foundation and building on its success, the school was set up in the same spirit of “empowerment philanthropy”, to provide vital skills in English for Sri Lankans, which would enable them to compete in the international jobs market and become successful global citizens too. Sri Lanka is one of the most literate countries in the world, with a powerful and free educational quest, set as part of her people’s nature.