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Moving to The Netherlands and need advice please on schools-Dutch or International?

(107 Posts)
irishmumonthemove Sun 22-Apr-12 22:44:20


We are moving to the Netherlands at the end of June when school is finished for the summer. My DH is already there working close to Amsterdam. We are delighted to have the opportunity to live on the Continent but at the same time we don't know the country at all and are trying to figure out nice, family friendly yet close enough to the city places to live. Also, we fluctuate between sending the children to local Dutch schools ( to enable integration with other kids and locals ) or subsidised International schools ( easier from a language point of view and maybe less stressful in the short - term ).

Does anyone live or used to live in the Netherlands? Would you send an English speaking Irish 9 yr old to a Dutch school and hope for the best? He is a clever boy ( aren't they all! ) and will see it as a challenge I think ( hope ) but I worry about how stressful it might be ( new country, language, culture). How do I find out about good Dutch schools? Should we select a school first and then a house or vice versa? We have been looking at houses on the net in Naarden, Bussum, Hilversum, Leiden, Utrecht. It's hard to decide...

MuffinTumMum Mon 23-Apr-12 08:40:35


Nothing to do with the Netherlands itself but if I were you I would start him at an international school and then reasses about local school once he has had time to acclimatize. I have a 9 year old boy who struggles to pick up new languages. We are overseas and I would have only done international with him. His 6 year old brother on the other hand speaks a second language with gusto and would have been ok in an immersion situation.
Good luck with your decisions. Stressful time but exciting aswell!

ripsishere Mon 23-Apr-12 12:42:31

I'm torn. I recently moved with my 10 YO DD from Antwerp to the UK. She has always been at International schools (4) because my DH is a teacher so it is free.
I think Dutch people are phenomenal linguists and you'll find that a lot of the children at a local school speak English. OTOH, the content of lessons would be delivered in Dutch so International may be the way to go.
I know there are a couple of MNers who live in Holland. They'll cycle up soon.

MrsGypsy Mon 23-Apr-12 13:01:32

Hi there! <<leaps off bike and carefully padlocks it>>

I sent my DS to the International School of Amsterdam, as it seemed the biggest and the best. And in many ways, it is. However the IB system of teaching didn't suit him at all, too much explore a theme and then cover it in geography, history art and Literacy, IFYKWIM. DS needed to be told what he was going to learn, be taught it, and then told what it was he had learned (he was there from age 6-9). At age 8, he was so bored he was failing miserably. Children of friends who were better independent learners did fine. I then tried the British School, which was better suited to his learning style. He did well there for a couple of years, until it was time for Senior School, which due to their lack of facilities and low numbers, I decided we would give it a miss. He's now at boarding school in the UK.

Questions to consider are:

1) Who is paying the fees? (ISA is stonkingly expensive). If you like the IB system consider International School of Hilversum, which is good, and much cheaper (if you are paying).

2) How long will you be staying? A couple of years in a different school at his age is fine. Longer than that, then you need to consider continuity of education - slipping in and out of IB, back to UK style education needs to happen before starting major exam courses.

3) International schools have a very transient student population. A Dutch school would be more stable, if you are staying here long term. Can't say anything about their system, as we were only meant to be here 2 years, and so didn't consider it.

4) Where do you need to live? Do NOT, and I repeat DO NOT consider living outside Amsterdam if your DS is at school there. Traffic jams have to be seen to be believed. It might look a short distance on the map, but make your DH commute, not your DS, or his school day will be very long (after school activities etc). Eg., Naarden is a lovely area, but will take about 45 minutes on the school bus, leaving home at 7.20am or so. You can't leave later than that as the traffic into Ams is AWFUL and can take an hour and a half in the morning to get in. Ditto coming in from Utrecht, Hilversum (had a friend who did that - she was suicidal within months from the traffic), or Leiden. Consider Amstelveen, or Amsterdam Zuid.

Hope that helps.

<<slips off to have a glass of milk>>

irishmumonthemove Mon 23-Apr-12 13:22:28

Thanks all for replying. We would be paying for any fees, same with relocation. We aren't planning on living in Amsterdam so not considering British school etc plus fees too high. It was the Hilversum subsidised school I was thinking of. We want to live in a town, like Naarden, Bussum, Vinkeveen, etc and hopefully get school places there and yes, my DH would commute to his work in Weesp, so not into Ams luckily.

We are open to staying In the Netherlands if we like it a lot so it's very possible we will be there 4 or 5 years or more! We have 3 children, aged 9, 7 and 3 so it may well be best to go the local dutch school route so our kids have the language eventually and can make friends.

Where is a really nice place to live? Any tips? We are open to suggestions! I would like to be within 30 mins of Ams so we could go there at weekends for family trips, ( shopping ! ) etc.

natation Mon 23-Apr-12 16:31:49

Since Weesp is not far from Hilversum and Hilversum has 2 subsidised international Dutch / English primary schools - International School Hilversum and Violenschool - then it would make sense surely to try and start looking for school places there first, looking for housing next. Violenschool website says there are currently no waiting lists. This is a useful link, but it doesn't have International School Hilversum on it, several other options though.

natation Mon 23-Apr-12 16:45:31

PS Violenschool is only 2950 per child per year, from 4 years old too, so perhaps all 3 of your children could get places.

natation Mon 23-Apr-12 18:20:00

Hmm looking at the descriptions of the 2 state subsidised international schools on this website - 3 years average stay, almost 40 nationalities, curriculum in English ? or majority English - I am guessing there are not many native Dutch speakers there, which would mean integration and acquisition of Dutch is going to be a lot harder than at a straightforward Dutch school with the curriculum taught in Dutch.

Maybe it would be a good option for a year at one of these "international state" schools, whilst settling into life and then moving on to a regular Dutch school. I could imagine finding 3 spots in one school this late on in the year might not be so easy. There are lots of method schools in the Netherlands, as well as Catholic / Protestant / non religious state funded schools, so quite a lot of choice of both method and religious persuasion.

natation Mon 23-Apr-12 18:31:42

natation Mon 23-Apr-12 20:53:56

Here's another link which could be useful, it's a group of Catholic state subsidised primary schools in Hilversum, 16 of them, this link mentions 4 of them have started a part bilingual English-Dutch programme, the actual list of primary schools is under "primair onderwijs" (primary education). Of course the bilingual programme is designed for Dutch speakers, but it might be worth looking at these schools. Here is the main link where the English programme is mentioned.

I think this is one of the schools doing the bilingual programme.
This could be another one.
And another one.
And another one.

suburbophobe Mon 23-Apr-12 21:24:08

This website has lots of info for expats and also a forum. (even a thread for Irish in NL grin).

dikkertjedap Mon 23-Apr-12 22:28:54

As you are not really sure how long you intend to stay, I would go for one of the international schools, at least for your nine year old. The problem is that the Dutch Cito toets determines which secondary school kids go to and hence whether they are able to go to university or not. Most kids sit the Cito toets at 11 years old. So it would be a lot to ask from a nine year old to get sufficiently on top of her Dutch and the Dutch curriculum (which is quite different) in order to do sufficiently well at the Cito toets. If the costs of international schools make it unaffordable to send all three, then I would send the eldest to international school and the other two to a Dutch school.

In addition to the schools in Hilversum, there is a British school in Voorschoten, international school (American?) in the Hague. Alternatively, you could send all three to a Dutch school and employ a tutor to help your nine year old.

irishmumonthemove Mon 23-Apr-12 22:30:11

Thanks Natation for all your info - that link with the 16 primary schools in Hilversum was very helpful- I have been googling them and translating ( not personally! ). I am very torn between sending the older two to dutch schools or Hilversum International. Yes, Hilversum would be a sensible choice of place to live alright. I will ring some more schools tomo to see if there is room for Sept 12. A few I rang today had no places.

Suburbophobe, thanks for that. I have looked around that website on and off over the last while. The Irish forum isn't busy really unfortunately as would love to meet Irish people too when we move over.

Is there a website I can look at the ratings achieved by individual primary schools according to the government? It's hard to know what school to pick- like shooting in the dark.

dikkertjedap Mon 23-Apr-12 22:33:21

Sorry, should have said your son rather than daughter.

Leiden has excellent school and there is lots of information on this website.

If you are in the Leiden area and need help finding a tutor I may be able to help you if you were to decide on a Dutch school for your nine year old.

Graciescotland Mon 23-Apr-12 22:37:24

There's a group on facebook amsterdam mamas which is great for meeting your fellow expats and a bit of advice. I know your not planning to be in town but there are quite a lot of mamas out in Hilversum etc. which could be useful when it comes to househunting.

suburbophobe Mon 23-Apr-12 22:39:59

irishmum, you're bound to run into Irish people, NL is full of expats... and Irish pubs grin

irishmumonthemove Mon 23-Apr-12 22:40:50

Ok, after reading your post Dikkertjedap, I am finally persuaded to go for an International school for the two oldest. We can send our 3 year old to Dutch school when the time comes - maybe she can help the rest of us with our Dutch! One thing tho, if my kids go to International school, does that rule them out of attending Dutch secondary school because of the lack of CITO test? Say their Dutch is good by age 12 ( because of all those dutch lessons we all plan on attending ), is it possible to go from an International school to a Dutch secondary? Am I taking nonsense because it's impossible?

irishmumonthemove Mon 23-Apr-12 22:45:54

Just saw the last few posts, thanks everyone. Graciescotland, I will look up that group somehow tho I have resisted the lure of facebook so far. Hurrah for Irish ( Oirish ) pubs. We don't want to live in an Irish bubble but hearing the old accent now and again would be great for sure.

dikkertjedap Mon 23-Apr-12 22:46:40

I am not 100 per cent sure but would expect that if their Dutch is good enough they should be able to sit the CITO toets - I will try to find out. Don't forget it is not just about Dutch, the language, but also the Dutch curriculum which is in a way a lot broader than the UK curriculum (caveat: or at least it always used to be).

Personally, I would consider sending the 7 year old to a Dutch school. Dutch kids only start learning in earnest in Group 3 (the year in which they become 7). Your seven year old will already be able to read, write, do lots of numeracy stuff which the Dutch kids are only just starting with. This will give your seven year old time to adjust. Nine year old is a different story IMO.

AnnawakeFourkiller Mon 23-Apr-12 23:02:23

Just to add that for the 3 year old it may be quite soon to start school - generallly Dutch kids start the day after their fourth birthday (although only compulsory from age 5 I believe). It could also be tricky to get a place at your school of choice (and there is absolutely huge variation). If I have to believe my SIL her DD was practically on a waiting list since birth. It's probably easier to get the 7 year old a place, as there will be some more movement then

dikkertjedap Mon 23-Apr-12 23:02:29

List of international schools

natation Mon 23-Apr-12 23:08:11

Aha here is the list of the schools which do bilingual in that Catholic schools group...

By the way, Hilversum international school is part of this school group too, perhaps it is easier to move sideways into one the local Dutch medium schools in this group from Hilversum international than to other schools in the area, as they are going to be in contact with the other schools as they are all controlled by the same Catholic body. And don't be put off by religious schools at all, it's no longer the case that religion dominates school life, the reality is they know most children are not from practising backgrounds, it's more about ethos and values.

natation Mon 23-Apr-12 23:10:38

PS that schools website even lists the number of children in each school, helpful if you like small or big - under "aantal leerlingen"

GnomeDePlume Mon 23-Apr-12 23:11:27

We lived in NL for 5 years. DD1 (and then subsequently the other 2) went to the local Dutch school. DD1 was 6 at the time. It took her 6 months to become fluent. The school was quite used to having various nationalities come in so gave her extra help. By the time we left the school had completely forgotten that the DCs were English!

My DCs attended this school:

It is probably too far but will give you an idea of what basisschool (primary school) could look like. It is an openbare school (ie state). It is entirely secular though it sits on a site which has a Catholic & a Protestant school as well. The three schools were run entirely separately but occupied 3 spokes of the same building.

Our view was that we wanted to integrate as a family not to be the weird foreign family. It did work. My colleagues who didnt send their DCs to local schools never seemed to integrate so well and of course were limited as to where they could live.

I have just asked DD1 (she is now 16) what she thinks about your question.

Her view: definitely Dutch school. Short term hard work for long term gains.

It is difficult to start with. Letters/Parents evening/party invites from school all in Dutch. On the whole the kids wont speak English but kids want to play and communicate so your DS will learn very quickly. People helped us, explained things (everything you ever knew about being a grownup is wrong!)

DD1 still speaks Dutch fluently (GCSE & A level since we moved back) and hopes to spend a year (or more) at a Dutch university.

Feel free to PM me if you want to ask detailed questions. DD1 is still in contact with Dutch friends (the miracle of facebook) so can get information if you want it.

AnnawakeFourkiller Mon 23-Apr-12 23:11:29

By the way - Hilversum and surroundings are very nice. Naarden, Bussum, Laren are all a bit 'poshish' (your kids will probably get the Gooise 'R'); on the other side are Baarn/Soest which are a bit more down to earth. Look out for good train connections to Amsterdam - the traffic jams are awful

My old secondary is part of the group above; and the catholic ethos was very light touch indeed (can't imagine that would have changed much in the 2 decades that I left)

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