Finding a place at an international school has just got easier. We visit the newly opened Amity International School Amsterdam, which is creating much-needed places for expat families in search of an English-speaking education.
Any conversation among expat newcomers to Amsterdam about finding a good quality international education for their children invariably includes two words: waiting list.
Rapid economic growth in the Netherlands has seen Amsterdam emerge as a European hub for commerce, finance and technology, attracting twice as many foreign migrants (largely from the US, UK and India) as ten years ago.
The education sector has struggled to keep up, with many international schools full to capacity, but Amity International School Amsterdam, which opened its state-of-the-art campus in Amstelveen in February 2018, is enrolling new students all the time and hopes to ease the shortage of places.
Amity is a not-for-profit organisation with schools in over 25 countries all over the world. The Amsterdam branch currently has just over 120 students aged 3 to 12, but as word gets out and the senior school expands – with Middle Years (12-13-year-olds) coming on roll in September – it is making steady progress towards its capacity of 600 students. Admissions from all year groups are accepted all year round. On the day we visit, three new children are starting.
This gradual enrolment of students, says principal David Porritt, has enabled them to keep their ‘one-size-fits-one’ mission and ‘pay a lot of attention to individual children and their parents and really help them feel that this is their school and that they belong.’ This is why children who have had difficulties elsewhere appear to thrive at the school, he says.
Parent Julie Goodey, who volunteers in the school library, moved her ten-year-old son to the school when he was struggling to settle into the Dutch system. The small class sizes and the personal attention he has received have really helped him, and he has adapted well to the inquiry-based Primary Years Programme* taught at the school. ‘It’s been really good,’ she says. ‘I really love the curriculum.’
More than 30 different nationalities currently attend the school and the staff are fully aware of how important it is that they all feel at home. ‘There is a genuine, authentic celebration of unity through diversity,’ says Mr Porritt. ‘What you see is a real sense of peace, fairness and justice amongst young people – they love each other [and] they care about each other in a way that we could learn a lot from!’
This openness to other cultures is also reflected in the school curriculum, which includes French and Dutch from age three. ‘There’s a celebration of language right from the start,’ the Principal explains.
Though the student body is still small, the school has been fully staffed since the beginning to ensure that children have all the care and support they need from day one. As well as Modern Languages specialists, for example, there are full time Special Needs and EAL (English as an Additional Language) teachers, and even a school nurse.
Amity’s glassy monumental building and colourful modern interior is a real showstopper – and having only recently opened, offers immaculate accommodation with brand new furnishings and equipment.
An enormous vaulted reception, with sculptures and a marble floor, leads – via a security card – to spacious, light-filled classrooms with a beautifully designed, playful décor packed with impressive displays of the children’s work. Built into the design are wide communal spaces where students can come together to play and learn.
Despite the school’s proximity to the capital, the site is surrounded by grass, canals and woodland –and most classrooms look out onto green spaces. Amity encourages its students to explore and be outside as much as possible. Today, unhindered by the drizzle, a group of enthusiastic pupils are busy digging up turf as they learn how to create their own garden.
Yet, a site – however extraordinary – does not make a school: it’s the buzzing student community at this school that makes it special. One of the things that gives the Principal most pleasure is watching Amity slowly fill up and come to life. ‘It’s like the fizz in the bottle of lemonade,’ he says.
The school is holding an open morning on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019 between 10 am and 12 pm. You can register via Facebook
*Amity International School Amsterdam is a candidate school for the PYP pursuing authorisation as an IB World School. IB World Schools share a common philosophy – a commitment to high-quality, challenging, international education. Only schools authorised by the IB Organisation can offer any of its four academic programmes: the Primary Years Programme (PYP), the Middle Years Programme (MYP), the Diploma Programme (DP), or the Career-related Programme (CP). Candidate status gives no guarantee that authorisation will be granted.
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