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School History

TFS – Canada’s International School holds a venerable place in Canada’s history. What started as an educational experiment – the first bilingual immersion school in the country – quickly took root as a new model for schools across cities and finally nation-wide. As the pioneer of French immersion in Canada, TFS has been an innovator since 1962, continuously striving to provide the best possible education.

Canada’s first French immersion program

Our origins in 1962 were in the basement of the home of Harry and Anna Giles, the founders of Toronto French School. They were impassioned by the emerging sense of Canada as a country of two languages and many cultures, and wanted their children to be bilingual citizens with a global point of view. Frustrated by the lack of educational options, they started a bilingual school with just six students and a francophone teacher from Beirut.
    • The Giles family house
    • Giles House Basement
Their radical venture was wildly successful, and soon the Giles’ and their supporters were scrambling for class space for the school’s rapidly growing student population.
    • Newspaper article announcing TFS' opening
Very few schools can claim that they started in a basement, and then expanded into classrooms located in churches, synagogues and skating-rink change rooms. One classroom was even sourced above an old A&P grocery store on Yonge Street.
    • Classrooms on Yonge Street
Each location was called a branch, and at their peak, they stretched from Mississauga in the west to Don Mills in the east.

Educators from around the world

In those early days, Harry Giles recruited teachers directly from France, as well as from other francophone nations such as Algeria and Lebanon, and from England and Germany. Some French nationals even became teachers at TFS to fulfil their national service!

Advocates for bilingual education

In 1964, a contingent of distinguished TFS parents and Headmaster Harry Giles were official presenters before the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism in Ottawa, asking for funds to support the school. They were turned down.
    • Newspaper article from 1966
    • Article from 1971

An educational home of our own

The school continued to grow. In 1971, thanks to the dedication and creative fundraising efforts of TFS parents, a new building was constructed at 101 Mildenhall Avenue, in the Lawrence Park neighbourhood of Toronto; it was TFS' first high school. The building was officially opened by Ontario Premier Bill Davis.
Over the next few years, the school acquired almost all of the properties along Lawrence Avenue East from Mildenhall Avenue to Bayview Avenue.
    • Premier Bill Davis Opens Mildenhall Branch

A tradition of innovation

An innovator in education since its beginning, the school has always been keenly aware of the world it lives in; in the 1960s and 1970s, that meant students learned Russian in addition to French.

TFS has been recognized by the Ministry of Education of France since 1984.

In 1974, the school introduced English A and O levels for senior students, to benchmark their academic achievements.

Two years later, in 1976, TFS began teaching computer science.

Since then, the school introduced the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program, supplanting the A and O levels, and then made the program mandatory for its most senior students in 1995.

In 2013, TFS became authorized to teach the Primary Years Program and the Middle Years Program of the IB, making the school the only bilingual, full-continuum IB world school in Canada.

Now the school has reinvigorated its focus on nurturing its students as both individuals and citizens who have an international perspective and who will become active and positive influencers in our highly connected, complex world.
    • TFS Student and Alumni Event
Today, the Toronto campus is home to La p'tite école (age 2 to Grade 1), the Junior School (Grades 2 to 5) and the Senior School (Grades 6 to 12), and is situated on eight acres of tableland. Behind the buildings is a true natural treasure: our own 26-acre portion of the Don Valley ravine.

Our West Campus, part of the TFS family since 1966, is a very special place. Sunny and intimate, it offers programs for students from PK (age 3) to Grade 7, with most students opting to continue at the Senior School once they have completed Grade 7. Close-knit, those who attend our West Campus often call themselves TFS' Mississauga family.

TFS has come a long way: from a basement to two beautiful campuses, and from six students in 1962 to 1,400 students, more than 50 years later.

What hasn’t changed is TFS’ founding philosophy, guiding our values, motto, mission and vision today.