German primary schools

(38 Posts)
rumbletum Fri 23-May-08 14:22:02

We are moving back to Germany from singapore and need to find a primary school for ds. Dh is German, and we'll be in the Mainz/Wiesbaden area. Please can anyone tell me about /recommend primary schools - are there catchment areas, league tables, church schools, private schools etc etc. We have no idea where to start. Thanks !

finknottle Fri 23-May-08 15:28:55

Children usually go to the nearest local primary. Unusual to go to another school, though not unheard of if e.g a parent works in that town. Primaries are 8-12/1pm, usually after school care too, till 4 if a (recent development) Ganztagsschule. Not on a Friday though, Germany closes down at lunchtime.

League tables, nope.

Church/private, on the whole not. There are some for secondary, rarely for primary but schools here are nothing like the UK system.

What's good is that the children walk/bus/tram, mostly without adults, in small groups.

If you have seen the German Schools thread, it can be scary but bear in mind it was started as a place to vent wink and not spoil the other thread where we can share many other great things about living in Germany.

Year 1 and 2 in primary are ime, pretty good anyway. How old is your ds? Children here start school aged 6 or 7 depending on their dob. Sometimes earlier but here at least the school will test them if they're not yet 6.

Ask away! You may find more international offers in the Main/Wiesbaden area. Bilingual stuff too.
Hth.
smile

rumbletum Sat 24-May-08 01:37:44

thanks finknottle. so is it a question of visiting the schools which look interesting and hope we end up with something decent? as we're in singapore it seems a bit of a lottery choosing something without knowing about reputation etc. Ds is 6.

taipo Sun 25-May-08 13:17:55

hi rumbletum, I think finknottle has pretty much summed it up. We did something similar to you, moving from Hong Kong to London and now Germany and I found it really hard to know where to start looking for schools.

I like the fact that there are definite catchment areas here for primary school. I think it's a lot fairer than what we experienced in London where you (in theory) can choose where to send your dc.

I think there are some state primaries run along Montessouri lines where you may be able to send your children even it's not the closest school. I don't know of any private primaries around here except the Waldorf/Steiner school and the international school.

Good luck with your move.

Nighbynight Sun 25-May-08 14:16:41

<hollow laugh>

Does your son speak fluent German?
Our experience in Munich was that they let us join a primary school, told us that there was no language help, then about 6 weeks later, we were barred from all primary schools in Munich, and told that the children would have to go to special classes for immigrants. These classes were too far away, I would have had to give up my job to take the children there and collect them.
We had to do a very expensive move outside Munich (having just moved to a new flat there!). The crucial difference was that outside Munich, there are no special classes, so your child does not get chucked out of the primary school.
so, I would find out what is the local policy on integrating foreigners. What the schulamt tells you, is not always the same as what happens in reality, I have to say from our experience.

As your dh presumably went through the system himself, you must be a bit clued up that it is part time, not full time. In our area, more than 60% of parents pay someone else to tutor their children in the afternoons. And most of the rest are tutored by their parents or grandparents. If you dont do this, your child will probably be put down to repeat the year. The level of parental input from the pushy parents is scarey!

If you send your child to a montessori or other private school, they are out of mainstream ed, so they may have to do the Probezeit when they are 10, or go to the hauptschule. You need to find out whether in your area, the parents have the right to send their child to the realschule even if the child doesnt get the grades.
In our area, there aren't enough reasonably private schools to meet the demand from parents who want to escape the state system, so it is really hard to get your child into one. Private schools may be subsidised by the state, so they may be really affordable (250 euros a month).
The foreigners I know who have lived here for some time and are clued up, mostly try to get their children into private schools.

The standard across the different primary schools is a lot more even than in the UK, so I wouldnt use a state primary school as a reason to choose where to live. I might consider trying to get close to a bi-lingual or private secondary school.

rumbletum Tue 27-May-08 07:11:55

Ds can speak german fluently so hopefully language won't be a problem.

There are a couple of private schools in the area that we are considering. But if you go the private school route, why do you have to do a Probezeit when you are 10 if you want to go back to the state system?

finknottle Tue 27-May-08 07:26:29

The Laender have their own rules & from what NN says Bavaria seems v draconian re schooling.
Here in Rheinland-Pfalz things are different. You could maybe check the RP websites to see what the regulations are.

try here

It'll be a big advantage for your s that he can speak German already.

taipo Tue 27-May-08 09:20:50

How old is your ds, rumbletum?

finknottle Tue 27-May-08 14:50:54

He's 6, taipo.
Bavaria seems like a nightmare for schooling.
Wish we had more options, only one private international in the area but would cost us 33,000 euros a year in fees alone for our 3. Plus a "one-off" registration fee of 2000 per family. hmm

taipo Tue 27-May-08 15:10:55

oops, just noticed that had already been asked blush

I think he should settle in reasonably well at that age especially if he already speaks German. It is a very different system though so if your ds has been at an international school in Singapore be prepared for him to take a while to adjust to it. Dd started school here when she was 7 and had 2 years of school behind her in the UK and it was very hard for her at first. What are schools like in Singapore?

rumbletum Wed 28-May-08 06:44:35

He's in the german school here in singapore, which is fine. What about private schools, do you think the standard is much better than the state schools? I've heard scary things on the other german schools thread !!

rumbletum Wed 28-May-08 07:02:50

forgot, thanks for the link finknottle.

taipo Wed 28-May-08 07:48:03

My impression (I don't have any personal experience) is that the standard of private schools is very mixed. There is a private gymnasium round the corner from us which has a very good reputation but a friend of mine who taught in a private school for a year was horrified at the discipline problems - the school seemed to be a dumping ground for difficult children. Her husband has taught at two international schools here - one was excellent and the other quite poor.

geekgirl Wed 28-May-08 08:45:34

that fits in with my personal experience, too. A lot of German private secondary schools (other than the ones serving the international community) are 'Quetschen' - as in, they squeeze even the most non-academic or badly behaved child of well-off parents through the Abitur or Mittlere Reife. I would be quite wary of private schools in Germany as it is quite an unusual thing to send your child to one, so a lot of the parents who do have fallen out with the school system for whatever reason....

(just to add, this isn't based on my direct personal experience, but my mum was the director of education [Schulrätin] for primary & secondary schools in a German city and oversaw both state and private schools, we used to talk a lot about her work)

finknottle Wed 28-May-08 11:15:53

Just remembered that Wiesbaden is in Hessen, not RP blush
Hessen

Ime it's rare to have a really rotten primary. When we do (as we often do) gripe about schools on here it's the whole system we're getting at wink

Think geekgirl's right about the privates.

rumbletum Thu 29-May-08 06:40:30

so it looks as if state schools are the way to go then. When we look around places, is there anything in particular you think we should look for/ask about etc? Have you had good experiences with the schools in germany?

rumbletum Thu 29-May-08 06:40:31

so it looks as if state schools are the way to go then. When we look around places, is there anything in particular you think we should look for/ask about etc? Have you had good experiences with the schools in germany?

SSSandy2 Thu 29-May-08 14:59:51

good luck rumbletum. I hope the move goes well. I wouldn't liketo comment on schools in Mainz/Wiesbaden because I don't know the area at all and IME schools in the different Laender vary quite considerably.

Personally I would look for a bilingual or international school if there are any and look at them first. I'm afraid though the internationals (which I also looked at for dd) vary quite considerably and with the fluctuation of staff/pupils they are not all good, although facilties may be better than average.

There are possibly some good quality private schools in that area, there are more and more springing up all the time because of general parental dissatisfaction with the other options.

There are church schools and they will be listed on the local govt education sites. If you google Mainz Grundschule, you should get that site as one of the first links

taipo Thu 29-May-08 23:08:20

Ssandy is right that schools do vary widely according to which Land you are in. I think Wiesbaden is Hessen and Mainz is RLP (or is it the other way around?).

If I'm totally honest I'm not all that impressed with the school system here and there have been major criticisms from various areas, a lot of it based on the Pisa study done several years ago in which Germany did very badly. And earlier this year it was criticised by the UN for failing children from poor and immigrant backgrounds. I know that you could say the same of a lot of countries but I think there are a number of reasons it is quite extreme here.

Firstly, the school day is so much shorter so children have to do a lot of homework in the afternoons and it is expected that parents will help so if you don't speak much German or you have to go out to work your child is already at a disadvantage.

Another major fault with the system imo is the early selection process for secondary schools which really makes it very difficult for late developers to fulfil their potential and many are labelled as failures at the age of 10.

Having said all that, most bright middle class children will do OK. My dh is German and sailed through the system. He went to a decent Gymnasium and used to be very much in favour of the 3-tier system.

Dd really struggled at the beginning to fit in with the system and I was pretty gobsmacked at how ill equipped they seemed to be at dealing with a child who was simply struggling to adapt to new surroundings and rebelled against it. Part of the reason for that, I think, is the emphasis that is put on your child being 'schulfähig' when they start school so teachers do not see it as part of their job to help those who do not quite fit into the system for whatever reason.

I'm a bit blush now at this long essay which is full of negatives but this is only my opinion and based on my own experience. Others may say very different things. On the plus side for us, dd has now settled and is doing very well. She doesn't even mind the constant tests she has to do and usually does her homework with a minimum of fuss.

I hope I've answered your question as honestly as I can and I apologise if I have been overly negative. Good luck with your decision and stick around here for support and advice!

rumbletum Fri 30-May-08 06:47:12

thanks everybody for the advice ! we're lucky that we have a bit of time to look around, so hopefully we'll be able to find something.

BTW is anyone living in the wiesbaden/mainz area?

rumbletum Fri 30-May-08 07:14:28

I've just read the other german corner thread grin ... Pls tell me what you really think ! I have lived in germany before, this is why i'm asking ...

SSSandy2 Fri 30-May-08 09:10:14

well to be really, really honest with you rumbletum, I would just not do it. I would not put my dc in the German school system at all if I could avoid it.

I qualify that by saying you know the country and you know the system since your ds is currently attending a German Auslandsschule anyway so the differences in approach would not come as a total shock to you as they did to me.

The German schools in Germany will be organised in pretty much the same way as your current school. If you are very happy with that school and ds is very happy with it, it is possible you will be fine with a local German school.

I can only give you my opinion based on what I myself have experienced and I don't know how much it would hold true for you. I have found it incredibly hard because I have felt that you are constantly coming up against a wall. I expect teh school to care about my dc as a person and how she feels. They don't think it is their business - they have their rules, their structure and they follow their curriculum. We are at cross purposes most of the time. I want them to deal with things that make her school life miserable andthey don't she why they should have to.

I personally very much dislike the approach to teaching primary. Perhaps you'll find it ok. My dd crumpled in the German system. She found it unfriendly, harsh, boring, stressful. I totally lost my dd through it, she was so miserable she changed and became unrecognisable to me. This was a local German Catholic primary, supposedly the best school near where we live which makes me shudder to think what the rest are like

That's the very honest truth I'm giving you there. There is no way if I were living overseas and happy with the schooling that I would move my dc to Germany and into the German state system. Absolutely no way. I know it is a lot of messing about for ds and they are expensive and far from ideal but could you not initially place him in an international school whilst you settle in for a term or a year and look around from there?

Perhaps one big deciding factor for me would be how German my dc already is. How well equipped might he be to deal with this rather rigid and formal schooling? Perhaps he'll take it in his stride. There are bound to be hiccups though and who will deal with them? It is hard on you, if you are the one who is going to have all the dealings with the shcool. If dh is going to reliably take care of that, it might go well for all of you.

I find the teachers on the whole ok as PEOPLE but they are not trained to teach in a way that is similar to how UK trained teachers are, they are also very much of the mindset "we tell you how it is and you do it" IYAM. Can you cope well with that in a situation where ds is struggling/unhappy? I couldn't personally.

Ask anything more specific you'd like to know and maybe you'll also get some very positive replies that balance what I have said.

SSSandy2 Fri 30-May-08 09:41:52

I thought I'd better add that some of the families we know from kindergarten still have their dc at our old school, the one we so thankfully turned our back on. Both dp in those families are German and they have told me they are content with the school, not truly happy about everything (but then when are you 100% satisfied with schools?). I think it is because both dp have been through the German system themselves. They have spoken with me complaining about the very same things that drove us away but in their eyes these things were not so bad that they could not live with the school IYSWIM

I wonder if it might get problematic for you if you and dh don't see eye-to-eye on this type of thing

Well there you are plenty of negatives to chew over! i should really try and get some foreigner who is very happy with the schools here to post and balance all this for you

finknottle Fri 30-May-08 10:45:22

Sandy wrote:

"unfriendly, harsh, boring, stressful"

I agree that's how hers was (nightmare) but not all are. On the whole v old-fashioned teaching concepts, v resistant to change. It's one size fits all. The teachers who bemoan this have no scope to change it. The post-PISA panic is widespread.

I find ours friendly, emphasises (fairly new concept here) tolerance, is trying to focus on social skills and will be starting a "Faustlos" Gewalt prevention scheme soon... all goodly stuff. Over-emphasis on worksheets, not much practical work but a good teacher will balance it out a bit more. The pastoral side is not as strong as I would like but ours is not like Sandy's old one thankfully.

What is not good is that the classes move at the pace of the fastest pupils and if your child needs more time, has ANY kind of learning difficulty, or just struggles, then the pressure is enormous. Y1 & Y2 are easy, reassuring, more focussed on the individual child's attainment & potential. There are no Noten, just smileys/stickers.

The Empfehlung for secondary is what dominates Yrs 3 & 4. It's barking mad to segregate children aged 9/10 into "Abitur & University" and "blue-collar vocational" imo. Imagine telling a 9 yr old in England, "You won't manage A-levels" hmm This is after only 3 yrs of primary school too <bangs head on desk>

Y3 they get Noten, they have a cycle of tests, maybe 1 week test-free then 2 a week, as so:
maths test
dictation
Aufsatz/essay
science test
music test
ethics/religion test

maybe a week off, maybe 2 if lucky, then the cycle begins again.

Some thrive on it, some don't. There's a lot of papers, little practical work, no "he can't do maths formulaically, but can visually so let's see how we can help him"..

Taipo's comment about bright middle-class children doing well is spot on. Ours are bright & middle class wink but s1 has a mild learning difficulty which means he need more time and no pressure. He's now in a secondary which gives him and that his marks are 1s and 2s, his confidence is back, he's thriving. Y3 & Y4 were hell for him and us.

S2 struggles with German, is shy, if he doesn't understand something he retreats into his shell, hates school and when I spoke to his teacher about it she said, "I know but I don't have time to deal with individual children."

If I were you I'd try the local primary and if your s is happy and copes (as many many do ) then he'll have the advantage of local friends, sport,music etc. We live in a small village and I love the way the children can go out and about. From about aged 7/8 the boys cycle to the pool to meet friends, are out and about, always find someone they know from school/sport to swim, go the youth club with etc. The schools tend not to have any extra-curricular activities so the Vereine are key to socialising.

Thinking back, s1's class had 21 children. I'd say (in a place this size you get to know) that about 19 got through primary fine and most are happy in their new secondaries.

rumbletum Sun 01-Jun-08 08:26:29

thanks for being so honest ! to be honest i was expecting to hear this sort of thing as it is what some of the parents complain about here.

the thing is, i'm not sure there is an alternative to the state system. there is an international school in wiesbaden but we have 3 dc and it will cost a fortune in the long run, so it's just not a realistic option. there are a number of church schools in the area which we thought might be the best alternative, but if these are no good, then are there any other possiblities? We have to go back to germany.

sandy, if you took your dc out of the local catholic primary, what did you do instead ?

Nighbynight Sun 01-Jun-08 09:06:49

I echo everything finknottle and sandy say. Even some of my German, gymnasium educated colleagues had hell with their children in school.

You should get through it OK as long as you know what you are walking into and have a few advantages
- your child speaks fluent German
- you have few children, and can give each of them a lot of time
- you either don't work (and are free to teach your child in the afternoons), or you pay for nachhilfe.

Nighbynight Sun 01-Jun-08 09:08:51

another thought: what will you do to replace the encouragement of creativity that your children would get from an english school?

SSSandy2 Mon 02-Jun-08 13:47:39

very difficult to find a solution to the school problem rumbletum and I have more choice here than you would have in Wiesbaden/Mainz

I looked at the internationals first. One has nice facilities, one has bog standard facilities, the staff/heads very approachable, all very pleasant. As you say, very expensive for what you get. I felt I would have a nicer environment there for dd and one I personally would feel happier dealing with but I would not be getting value for money in terms of education which rankled and it meant a considerable commute either way or we'd have to move to be right next door. They do hardly any German so it's really just an English language education, very expensive and the equivalent of perhaps an ordinary state school in the UK with high fluctuation due to the mobility of families/staff. Difficult to justify the cost with 3dc

We have state bilinguals here which is what I went for in the end. I am dissatisfied with a lot but I am VERY MUCH happier with the style of teaching because it is more geared to the BNC and the English speaking staff have been trained overseas. There are families from many different English and non-English speaking countries in addition to the German families and I much prefer the whole ambience, the interaction of the dc, the creativity. I have another huge ongoing drama with it right now so no idea if I took her out of this one what we could do really.

We also have various private bilingual schools cropping up all over town and they are expensive too but less so. However they don't have normal facilities, no grounds or anything and I didn't feel attracted to any of them.

I can tell you I went half out of my mind with the whole thing. Having experienced this school after the last one, I would not send dd to another standard local German school personally. She needs the fun aspect and the creativity, project work, interesting art, good play grounds, big sunny rooms and pleasant socialising etc which the other school totally lacked.

In your shoes I would investigate every alternative to those schools that you have and only take a local German school (church or otherwise) if you have no other realistic choice.

Amongst the normal German schools there are quite a few exceptions. Your dh might know about that kind of thing. Here we have Waldschulen which are placed on the outskirts fo the forest and they seem popular, there are schools with additional focus on sport or music, there are the bilinguals and then if you like their philosophy - Waldorf and Steiner.

Don't want to be totally pessimistic and drag you down if you are making the move anyway but I have to say I have found the schooling stress factor number 1 over here. Make it as easy on yourself and your kids as you can afford to do.

rumbletum Tue 03-Jun-08 06:57:07

thanks sandy. I'll investigate the other alternatives as much as possible. We're going over soon for a while anyway so we might be able to look at a few places.

It's a bit daunting though. Thanks for your help.

SSSandy2 Tue 03-Jun-08 08:49:39

I'm afraid it is quite a daunting experience if you don't just register your address with the foreign police and take the school allocated to you. It's hard to know when you apply what you are going to get. At least the internationals show you around and take a lot of time for you, have trial periods etc to help you decide, the state options you just have to take as they are. I do think it is worth finding an alternative if you can though.

You could try calling the local allgemeinen Schulrat or the Schulamt and ask for recommendations. You will also have the problem that your dc are bilingual but in a mainstream school will be obliged to attend lessons in English as a foreign language which is not ideal.

Maybe you could ask for a list of schools which have English at least from year 1 as opposed to year 3 or have perhaps a special emphasis on languages or alternatively have French as foreign language. They should be able to give you that information, if they have those sort of options there - we do here. You should be able to get into any school with French as foreign language since they will be less popular than those teaching English generally, going by the situation here.

The Schulamt/-rat might be able to give you a list of international and private schools. Not sure about that though. Possibly the British Embassy could help with that or have some advice. Or even the British Council.

Are your dh's parents currently living in Mainz/Wiesbaden? Maybe they could go in and pick up a list of schools, get some advice on your behalf?

rumbletum Thu 05-Jun-08 10:30:25

we have got lists of schools now etc and there are a couple of private ones that aren't hugely expensive that look interesting. so we'll go and have a look at these when we're over plus a couple of state to compare. i guess i just have to keep looking and hope we'll find something eventually. at least we aren't too tied to mainz/wiesbaden - it's the rhein-main gebiet generally so this gives a bit more choice. thanks for all the advice!

admylin Thu 05-Jun-08 10:54:44

Hi rumbletum, good luck with the schools. Do you know where you will be living already? Hope the move goes smoothly too - will you be containering (!) everything back to Germany? I remember a friend of a friend came back to Germany with some lovely chests of drawers, beds and wooden furniture bought made in Singaporebut there was something to do with the climate change or something and she had problems with alot of her stuff. Not much help I know as I can't remember what exactly - but anyway!

One other point to remember when checking out schools - you could find a school that is OK but end up with the one rubbish teacher for your dc class. This happened to us , we have 2 dc and dd has had the greatest teacher, he understands her and doesn't get mad at her shyness, he's patient, teaches well and she loves him too. But ds has had such bad luck for 3 years running - his teacher is so scatty, she can't remember things, lessons are totally boring, she is always late, often sick leaving no work or instructions for the ersatz teacher and none of the dc like her. So if I'd only had dd at that school I would highly reccommend it.

SSSandy2 Sat 07-Jun-08 14:29:55

good luck rumbletum. Let us know how you get on. We haven't been balancing all the negative thoughts on schools with generally positive experiences on life in Germany since you know the country anyway from having lived here before but I suppose we should be dong that for the benefit of any silent readers we may have. I do think there is a lot that is good about life in Germany.

I was talking to a Korean mum the other day who told me one of her dc had flourished in the German system, the other had not; so perhaps too the dc's personality plays a role in how well a dc fits in. Her dd attended the local Evangelical primary (actually in my own district) and it was all plain sailing. The ds however was unhappy there. They moved back to Korea because of this but have since returned to Germany because the dd is able to attend the Evangelical Gymnasium here in the mornings and study violin at the conservatory in the afternoon and that kind of educational possibility was not available to her in Korea.

They feel the German system suits their dd perfectly. Their ds however they have sent to an international school to be educated in English with the IB curriculum.

rumbletum Tue 10-Jun-08 07:25:58

hi everyone, admylin - the problems with the furniture comes from the relative dryness in germany compared to the huge humidity in singapore...we're also hoping the stuff we've bought doesn't fall apart!

i've since found a state international school near darmstadt that has lessons in english and follows a combination of the british and german curriculums. this could be a real possibility for us, and to me it sounds like a good compromise. we now have to think about if we want to put the dc into such an english environment or not - there's always the possibility we may have to move on later within germany, what if they can't speak/write german then etc etc. it's always so complicated !!!

taipo Tue 10-Jun-08 08:10:27

We had that problem with our furniture when we moved back from Hong Kong. Luckily dh did a fantastic job restoring some of it.

I would imagine that German lessons would be pretty important at any international school but I don't know if it would be enough if you moved to a mainstream school. I think there are more and more international schools around though so as long as you're not out in the sticks you'd probably always find somewhere suitable.

In many ways the system here suits dd. She's bright but a bit scatty and not very confident about her abilities so the constant testing actually suits her because she can see from the marks she gets that she is doing well and is motivated to try to get a better mark in the next test. I think she probably would just drift along in the UK system.

I still think it's way too harsh though to put all this pressure on primary school children and I find the whole system incredibly old-fashioned and lacking in creativity. We're in BW though which I think is quite extreme. I saw a report yesterday on a primary school in the Saarland and was surprised to see that the classrooms looked just like any in the UK - groups of tables and lots of brightly coloured artwork around the room. Here they sit in rows facing the front and the classrooms are pretty drab looking.

SSSandy2 Tue 10-Jun-08 09:26:01

Found it:
SISS

yes definitely try to get in there if you can. It's a bilingual Europa school so they do both English and German. That sounds by far the best option. The dc can sit A levels, International Bac and/or Abitur. From the sound of it you will like the curriculum a lot better and it's from 8.45-3pm which is fine with the option to stay on till 5pm if need be. I would definitely apply from overseas though and not wait till I'm in Germany.

They are geared towards hoch-mobile families and if you are returning to Germany and settling there you are not hochmobil. If you apply from overseas, you should get a place but I would apply soon if you are returning for the next school year in September.

kazah72 Mon 12-Nov-12 22:47:34

hi
this thread just ended in Jun 2008- what was the outcome rmbletum?
We're moving to Mainz in January with a 6 yr old ds and 2 year old dd and still don't know what school to put him in- should he go into kindergarten for the first few months and start year 1 in september? How far behind will he be on returning to England in 2-5 years time?

rumbletum Tue 13-Nov-12 20:26:05

In the end we put him in the local catholic primary and it all worked out fine! The mainz/wiesbaden area is a lovely place to live, btw.

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