Vienna -- Secondary Schools

(40 Posts)
NeverEndingJourney Fri 23-May-14 08:53:36

Hello all,

Moving to Vienna this summer. This will be our third move in 18 months. Younger daughter will be in Y5 at the Lycée.

Older daughter will be Y10. She had very traumatic experiences in the French system, so pretty much refuses the Lycée option, though it's the cheapest of the international schools. Can't afford the English-speaking international schools -- could scrape by for tuition and capital fee but not for lunches, bus and trips. She has had three years of German, though she probably still can't say much, really (school German, you know). Also two years of Latin. I'm in touch with some local gymnasium, but they concur that for their 5.klasse she just does not have enough German -- even for the VBS.

Does anyone have experience with this? I keep thinking we'll end up homes educating (have done so two different years) but I'm very worried about the social aspect of it (again, we've done it...last time it was in the UK and it was really hard on her, even though at school she often gets teased and bullied). Argh. Don't know what to do. Any advice? Any other teen home educators in Vienna?

Bonsoir Fri 23-May-14 09:33:47

I've heard good things about this school

NeverEndingJourney Fri 23-May-14 09:46:26

Thank you, Bonsoir. I was also impressed by the website. However, then I began to search the parents.at forum and found that the methods there are very strict and the atmosphere somewhat "elite." Also, the report card must be "perfect," and I have understood that this is basically true. Unfortunately, my daughter -- though she has perfect report cards all her life -- has not done so well during her transition to school in France this past year (and, anyway, I assume you must know by your name, that a perfect report card in France is rather rare). Plus, my daughter was not so keen on the mandatory afternoon supervision.
But thank you for the suggestion!

NeverEndingJourney Fri 23-May-14 09:48:49

I should specify that she's in the European School system, though being in France is run much like a French school. But this is not where her bad experiences were.

Bonsoir Fri 23-May-14 10:08:56

It sounds as if she has moved around a lot.

I went to a European School and by Y10 it is very specific and hard to move on from.

NeverEndingJourney Fri 23-May-14 10:25:43

Yes, she has moved too much -- for her personality. My younger one transitions much better (not just because she's still little). We didn't know we would move again, but as soon as we decided to come here from the UK (dh telecommutes), my dh's organisation tanked financially. Now he got an excellent job at the OSCE and we plan to stay the full 7 years so dd can stay in one place for high school.
Yes, moving from the EE is very difficult already in Y9 because the subjects are so different and she has done already a lot of what is on the program for US or French school in Y10.

bluebellmuffin Fri 23-May-14 12:13:25

If your husband will be working for the OSCE I'd very surprised if they do not offer help with school fees - most UN/International organisations pay 70/75% of fees and help with capital fees. Then you could consider the International schools.

Re the schools, the one Bonsoir linked to had (my knowledge is 5 years old) a reputation for being full of very rich privileged Viennese children. If your dd has German there are 4 or 5 state bilingual Gymnasiums scattered all around Vienna - usually desperate for Native English speakers - they are considered the best state schools in the city and the ones the Viennese try to get their children into. Ahh sorry just re-read your post and you've tried this. I'm surprised they are not being more helpful.

NeverEndingJourney Fri 23-May-14 12:51:34

Hi Bluebellmuffin!

Yes, 75% but up to a limit (which ends up being more like 55%). I need a job. :-)

One of the VBS secondaries was quick to respond and quite helpful, offering a place reports/child unseen. Unfortunately, they offered a place in the economics section for the 1st year and, well, my daughter is heavily (heavily!) into science and did not want to go through another year where nothing interests her. I would have taken it, but I can't force a 14 year-old, you know. I refused the place but with an explanation, hoping the director might say, well okay if it's that important...

Another one is saying that it would be very difficult, but is still considering. The director just doesn't know if there will be a place in this class next year as the kids haven't made their choices yet.

AKG is also considering. Wanted the reports but hasn't got back to me yet. Also not sure if there will be a spot. I like the AKG curriculum. Not sure about the school.

Anyway, I'm more interested to know if others have sent their children to a secondary in Vienna (starting in secondary, not having gone through the VBS primaries). Did it work out okay? How were the social conditions? Etc.

NeverEndingJourney Fri 23-May-14 12:54:57

Oh, and dd has German, like I said, but very limited. She started in Y6 and has always done very well, but I don't have a grasp of her level. I'm sure it isn't more than A1 or A2. I took a test and reached only A2 (that's with my last German course 30 years ago). B1 was very difficult.

suenanlostamboresdelarebelion Fri 23-May-14 18:31:10

Hello! Nice to have someone else on Mumsnet moving to Vienna.

I can't really help as my dc went through/are going through Austrian primary schools. One is now in the local Gymnsaium (which people say is like the AKG) and the other one will go in September. I live just round the corner from the Lycee!

A couple of things came to mind reading your posts. One is your daughter's German level. I think she may well struggle with A1 or A2, but of course only initially as children learn quickly. There is support for children and if you move during the summer there are all sorts of camps etc for children to learn German.

The Austrian Gymnasium system is tough - and the schools you mentioned are meant to be some of the most demanding. In that sense, I am not sure what the difference will be with the Lycee. The Lycee here is also demanding, but (from what I hear) not more demanding than the schools you mentioned. Are you sure she would not give it a try? The Lycee has a very international atmosphere (I hear lots of the pupils speaking very fluent english - as well as French and German of course) and so it may well be different to her recent, bad experiences.

On elite schools - I see the chidlren going to the lycee and have friends who went there, and know people who send their dc there. It is not your average Viennese child that goes there. But neither do they go to the schools you mention.

Don't know anyone home educating in Austria. I am not sure how common it is. What about that internet school?

Vienna is a wonderful city, but I can see your dd's situation is not easy.

NeverEndingJourney Fri 23-May-14 20:34:41

Hi Sue (let's shorten it to that, eh?)

Thank you! We will also be living round the corner from the lycee, hopefully! It's so good to hear from someone who speaks my language and knows something! Ahhh!

I have been trying to contact the lycee, to no avail so far, about the very issue of multiculturalism at the school. The director of the primary is quite nice. I suppose the secondary director is just very busy. Another problem for dd is simply the style of teaching in the French system. She really loves to be around passionate people, even adults. She often becomes close to a teacher and appreciates a supportive, young, fun faculty. Generally not something one finds in the French system. She finds it either way too authoritarian or way too lax.

The only reason I've been considering the AKG is that it has "deutsch als fremdsprache" and French (and Latin, as dd would like to continue). The VBS for obvious reasons.

Online high school would give her a US high school diploma -- and quite a few course options not offered by AIS. Anyway, she wants to attend uni in the States.

We will definitely consider a German camp for the last three weeks of summer holiday. At least she won't be completely lost on the first day of school.

My dd is very excited about moving to Vienna. Thank you for the reassurance. Your message was so kind.

NeverEndingJourney Sat 24-May-14 11:14:10

Sue, what do you think of Wasagasse? I've read some opinions that say it is an open, friendly school. The curriculum is quite interesting for my girl, who loves robotics/ICT/electronics. I also like the clubs, which includes fencing, German as a Foreign Language, etc.

Would they have to take her if she is in the catchment? I haven't quite caught on to whether the catchment area matters at all at this level.

Best

suenanlostamboresdelarebelion Sat 24-May-14 14:13:56

To start backwards. My dd1 goes to Wasagasse, and dd2 will start in September. DD1 loves it there. It has a reputation for being demanding, but dd1 is only just finishing the 1.klasse so haven't noticed it (yet?). Tbh I had my reservations at first - mainly because of the languages taught - I am half spanish and would like them to learn it, Wasagasse only offers Spanish in combination with ICT which my daughter is not into at the moment. (But perfect for your daughter!) But I am very happy with the school now. It has a nice atmosphere to it. The big ones help the young ones out etc. The director is young and dymanic - and has a nice manner with the students. We only struggle with one teacher - the rest seem really committed and enthusiastic. Though the constant testing is there, as it will be in any Austrian school.

I am also not sure how important the catchment area is...I know it plays a role, but not sure if they HAVE to take a child in that area. With both dds, the director said the chances of getting a place were very high due to good marks and that we lived so close.

How are you communicting with schools? I find that the telephone works best here. Is there any chance of coming over for a few days? (Not sure where you are at the moment) Face to face works best here. Also, if you like that VBS that offered you a place, I would ask directly, (and I mean very directly) if there is a place for her in another stream. Austrians are open to negotiation and compromise - sweeping generalisation but many Austrians have told me that. I would use that openess to your advantage. For example, in theory (policy?law?) the Gymnasium classes should only have 25 students. DD1 has 28 students in her class and when I asked Austrians how that is possible if the limit is 25, they all shrug and say they have no idea (including the form teacher!). I guess I am saying there is flexibility.

The Lycee students look and sound very multicultural - I have heard German, French, English, Spanish (both from Spain and South America), Catalan, Arabic and Russian being spoken. But I don't know their official policy on it.

Let me know if you want any help with flat etc. Some streets in the 9th can be a bit noisy, although in general I am always surprised how quiet it is, even if it is central. I really like living here, it is quite urban but have access to parks, the Donau Kanal, Augarten and a 20 min tram ride takes you out into nature. DC can walk to schools and dh and I can walk to work - a real luxury.

oh and let me tempt you further by telling you about the Viennese Musikschule - subsidised music lessons in your neighbourhood, instruments on loan etc. It's great.

NeverEndingJourney Sat 24-May-14 17:17:23

My mouth dropped at that last sentence. Oh my, thank you! I was going to buy a flute and/or violin for my youngest while home in the States (I'm from the States; dh is French; we are currently in France). She will be so, so pleased as we weren't able to afford lessons this year (we also have a home in Brittany and it was our first time in years having to pay both rent and house).

Okay, the Lycee is definitely multi-cultural. Just have to convince older dd about the teaching style. Funny, older dd has always got the worst of the French system while younger has got the best. Sigh.

Wasagasse sounds really good to me. The robotics was the one thing holding dd up about local schools because AIS has a team and she really wanted to get back on a team.

Older dd is a bit different from other girls...very tall and thin, short hair, a bit boyish skater style (though that's changing), , a huge geek, and she'll be getting both braces and glasses soon. I worry, you know. So a good atmosphere is absolutely crucial.

9th district, yes! Dh's work is a 10-15 min walk! We have had walking to school here in France for the first time in years, and just love it. I will definitely tell you any street names, just to check. I can't come as dds need to finish up the school year then come with me to see the grandparents in the US. But dh will be reporting to work on June 2nd, so he'll be doing the in-person stuff.

I've had fairly good luck by email (I am not a phone person), but if Wasagasse doesn't reply I'll have to phone, won't I?

Oh, you've been such a great help to me! Thank you, thank you!

NeverEndingJourney Sat 24-May-14 18:03:22

BTW, what do you mean by testing? Standardized testing like in the States? Or periodic subject tests in the classes? One thing dd1 couldn't stand in the UK was the constant "this will be on the IGCSE (three years from now) so pay attention!"

suenanlostamboresdelarebelion Sat 24-May-14 18:55:57

Just quickly, as I am meant to be cooking dinner...

On the testing - it is more constant like class testing. But a lot of emphasis but on a couple of tests and end of semester marks largely depend on the results from them. They cause stress - both to children and parents.

I don't want to misinform you - the music classes aren't free but about 100 euros a semester, and the rental of an instrument is about the same. It can be hard to get into the music school - depending on the instrument - dd1 got in immediately and dd2 had to wait till the next semester.

I sort of know what you mean about dealing with difference...my nearly 10 year old dd will only wear "boys' clothes", and cut all her hair off a couple of years ago. She has now grown it longer but still only boy stuff. But the scale of the worry is different with a 14 year old.

You know, based on what you say, might she be better off in the Lycee? The continuation of language and of system, the multiculturalism there will be more supported there. Wasagasse will support and encourage difference, but it will be different to the very international mix at the Lycee. I am not sure that the average Austrian approach is more relaxed than the French, though I have heard that some VBSs have a more relaxed atmosphere. But it depends on your dd and what she has gone through. It's fascinating, though hardly surprising, how differnt children thrive in different systems.

NeverEndingJourney Sat 24-May-14 21:03:39

Mine had dreads at 9! But now, like I said, it's starting to wear off and she is saying she wants dresses and such for next year. Her style has become much feminine this year -- and she's bought makeup, though still a bit too timid to use it at school.

I don't know which school (I am so torn!). She says she would like the challenge of being immersed in German. The French system is very weak on ICT/new technology/artificial intelligence, etc. She wants to go to MIT.

She has plenty of experience switching systems: Kyrgyz nursery, half of Y1 in the US, other half plus Y2 and 3 at French school in Ukraine, Y4-7 in anglophone international school in Lithuania, Y8 in the UK, Y9 in European School. Makes your head spin, doesn't it?

So you don't find the Austrian teachers friendly/supportive? The French really put the kids down and make them feel stupid at times.

suenanlostamboresdelarebelion Sun 25-May-14 08:39:26

On the whole I have found most teachers friendly and supportive for dd1. Only one is a nightmare and she will retire in a couple of years. As in every school and school system, there are all sorts of teachers with different attitudes. Talking to colleagues with dc in other schools, it's the same really - all sorts of teachers. It's just a lottery really.

wow - you have moved around lots. For someone who has moved around so much, in case she gets itchy feet, one other thing might attract your dd to the Austrian system- that is the possibility of spending a semester abroad (in the Oberstufe). One of colleagues dd's went to Norway, the other to Brazil. I've worked with people who went to Spain, Australia. It costs a fair bit, but is possible. Though the Lycee might do it too...not sure.

your dd sounds cool! does she really want to wear dresses and make up or is she doing it to fit in? Most of the Gymansium girls I see here are into jeans and trainers or boots. I wonder if Austria has a more casual dress style? My work is completly casual. And you see people working in banks wearing jeans and trainers. Something I did not see in the Uk when I lived there.

great that dh can come ahead- will he look for flats or does work help out too? There are quite a few on the market in the 9th at the moment - I am keeping half an eye on the ads because our contract runs out in August and although the landlady has said we can renew the contract, I am nervous she will put the rent up so much we will not be able to afford it.

I can see why you are torn with the choice of schools. Not easy, as both will have their pros and cons. It's just working out what cons you can live with smile

Right, better go...we are off "abroad" today. In about one hour's drive you can be in Hungary, Czech Republic or Slovakia. After 5 years here we are still enjoying getting out into another country in an hour.

NeverEndingJourney Sun 25-May-14 14:51:43

I tend to think the ratio of crap teachers is higher in France. That's my experience, anyway.

Dd definitely gets itchy feet (both do, really) and is quite keen on going on an exchange to Japan or Finland. Anywhere, probably. I haven't read anything about it at the lycee, though I know it's in the culture to do it here in France. The lycee's website is not very informative. Anyway, the main reason for looking for another school is so that we can actually afford the side stuff. We will be doing better financially now. Back to the ol' expat lifestyle after two years of being "local hire."

I still do harbour a little fantasy that the AIS will offer dd a scholarship or something (they don't) just 'cause she's so brilliant, you know.

Dd is very cool, indeed! :-) I don't think it's to fit in. She became quite interested in fashion and makeup through British YouTubers. Now, if you had known her last year when the system through her into a dump school in Essex, your mouth would drop wide open. She lasted three weeks. Talk about not fitting in! Not sure if you're familiar with Essex (you must be) just watch The Only Way is Essex or Educating Essex. It's also a case of "I am moving, hence I get to change styles without all the questions and surprise shown by my classmates." She wants me to knit her up a boyfriend cardi to wear with litlle flowered dresses and leggings. I was also a tomboy, also mistaken for a boy until I was...ahem, old...and I started to come round about this age, maybe more like 16.

Dh will look at the flats I direct him to. :-) I get to ignore the cheap ones with cruddy old bathrooms, right? He'll never know. Work does not have a database of flats, like the UN, as far as I know. They've only offered a guide with some websites and such.

Okay, maybe I'll get some answers from both Wasagasse and the Lycee this week. Then I won't feel so up-in-the-air.

I hope you enjoyed you day-trip. You'll be giving me all the tips on where to go, right?

We're spend the long weekend in Switzerland, visiting my dh's motherland, as the girls have never been.

We should probably turn this into a PM. :-)

LinzerTorte Sun 25-May-14 17:54:16

Hello! Hope you don't mind me butting in... We're just outside Vienna so I don't have anything useful to add on secondary schools there, but can confirm what suenan said about the constant testing (DD1, who's at a Neue Mittelschule - the alternative to Gymnasium - is revising for yet another test as I write).

The proximity to other countries is great too. We usually drive to Italy in the summer holidays, have driven to Germany a couple of times and of course have Eastern Europe on our doorstep. Admittedly, we mainly go for the shopping (there's an M&S and big Tesco in Bratislava, where the shops open on Sundays) but we also spent a long weekend in Budapest last year and I was amazed at how close it was (2.5 hour drive IIRC). I'm from the UK but we moved to Austria from Pennsylvania, where we could drive for a couple of hours and still be in the same state - here, you could get to any number of countries in the same amount of time.

Can also confirm that it's very common to spend part of a school year abroad; our neighbours' oldest daughter went to Ireland for six months and another of their daughters is currently in Canada for about the same amount of time.

Very envy of the Musikschule prices in Vienna; when the DDs were both learning the piano, we were forking out about €1200 a year. shock Now that only DD2 is still playing, it's back down to about €600 - or €300 a semester. Having said that, we'd be paying about half that if she only had a 25 minute lesson so maybe it's not all that more expensive than Vienna after all...?

LinzerTorte Sun 25-May-14 17:59:15

Btw there's also a living in Germany/Austria thread here but it's fairly quiet atm and the majority of posters are in Germany.

NeverEndingJourney Mon 26-May-14 07:12:21

Thanks Linzertorte! Was happy to see M&S has an Austrian site as dh is very tall and thin, so buys his suits from there.

LinzerTorte Mon 26-May-14 08:37:01

DH is also a big fan of M&S clothes and is usually the one who instigates our Bratislava trips! I wasn't too impressed when they introduced the Austrian site, however, as the range and special offers didn't seem to be as good as on the UK site - which they won't let us buy from any more. They often have 20% off certain ranges though and you do save a couple of euros on postage.

suenanlostamboresdelarebelion Mon 26-May-14 15:37:31

hello Linzer nice to see you on this thread. It is true about the more limited range im M&S online in Austria. Most annoying first time I found all these things on UK site and then found out I could not order from there, and were not available for shipping to Austria. I'll let you know the exact prices of the music classes as I am expecting a bill soon, but hope it is not �12000!

neverending- There are no cruddy bathrooms in Vienna, they just don't exist, of course not wink. And please don't mention the ones with communal bathrooms or the showers in the kitchen - yes, they do exist! The flat under us is free at the moment, but a) not on the market (I don't think) and b) I would not recommend living under us. We are very noisy, well, dh and I aren't but our children are sad. Do dh's work pay the estate agent's fees? Those are a little remarkable here - two months rent, but can get some flats directly from owner with no fees.

I am indeed familiar with Essex, or at least its reputation. I can imagine it must have been hard. I asked dds whether someone with short hair, glasses and braces would be laughed at , or thought of as strange, and they both looked at me as if I were mad and said of course not.

Hope you get some answers this week and will feel less unsettled. Fingers crossed it all works out.

Have a good time in Switzerland!

All this talk of travelling is giving me itchy feet grin Though I know I have found "home" and have no plans to move!

NeverEndingJourney Mon 26-May-14 17:07:28

Ha! M&S! So my dh was in London just a few days and needed some suits. I had been frantically searching around, not finding any that had his size jacket AND his size pants. So I find two suits on the UK site. But despite the fact that they are supposed to ship to the store in 24 hours as long as you order by noon, the suits weren't available until three days later. So I'm begging these customer service reps to do something. They won't/can't. So I complain to the French site that their stock levels are unacceptable and why can't I find the suits I need, etc. They tell me that all I have to do is find the ref number from the UK site, enter it into the .fr site, and voila, I will be a happy madame. Not true. The UK site tells me they set up the European sites so we wouldn't have to pay the postage, etc. It's ridiculous! They will ship, FOR FREE, to the US, Australia and New Zealand, but not to the Frogs -- or the Austrians -- apparently.

Nobody's answering me about schools. Sigh. I'm going to try the email of the director at Wasagasse.

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