Can Amsterdam keep up with the demand for international school places? Amity’s new senior school is a step in the right direction.
Time flies when you are a parent and before you know it your children are senior school age. Almost half of all expats in the Netherlands are now staying for longer than five years and the parents among them face a competitive market when seeking places for their children in an international secondary school.
Boomtowns like Amstelveen, near Amsterdam – where almost one fifth of residents now come from outside the Netherlands – have struggled to meet the demand. But for parents of 11-13-year-olds seeking a first-class international education for their children, there’s good news: Amity International School Amsterdam is opening its new senior school in Amstelveen in September and still has places in Middle Years 1-3.
Beginning with a capacity of 120 students, the school will apply to become a candidate school for the IB Middle Years Programme and later, the IB DP, following the current candidacy for the PYP*.
This will allow Amity to follow the Middle Years Programme until age 16 and then the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. After that, students can even opt to attend an Amity University if they want to continue their education with this not-for-profit organisation which educates over 150,000 students across the globe.
Sarah Wade, who will be the new school’s head teacher, witnessed first-hand its warm welcome when she first visited the school earlier this year. ‘I was taken with the family feel to the school,’ she says.
‘All the staff and students made me feel welcome and everyone was happy and smiling. To enable students to be really successful at school, I think a caring atmosphere, in which students feel valued and heard, is vital. Amity Amsterdam certainly has this.’
Senior school students have a form tutor who is responsible for their pastoral welfare and access to learning support and to differentiated English as an Additional Language lessons in line with their needs. The personal and attentive approach means students quickly feel at home. ‘Every child is known by the staff and there is a real sense of everyone working together,’ says Ms Wade.
The new senior school is set to be a real show-stopper with a design concept which places the young person at the centre of their learning. There is a conscious move away from traditional classrooms. Instead, you see many shared learning spaces and break out areas, while the senior school library snakes throughout the building so students can access resources with ease.
Drama, Design, Music and Science all have bespoke spaces which invite learning. The abundant use of glass means that the building is flooded with natural light and feels connected to the grassy grounds which surround it, and which are seen by staff as an extension of the classroom and a place to deepen the students’ learning by applying it to the natural world.
Unsurprisingly, the senior school has had no difficulty in attracting outstanding subject specialists keen to teach in this warm environment. ‘Each position has been hotly contested,’ says Ms Wade. ‘We have been able to be selective and choose teachers with the skills required to set-up a new school and who bring energy, passion, experience and strong pedagogy to the school.’
The ethos already created by the school will stand this next phase in good stead. When Ms Wade visited the school’s first building on their Amsterdam campus, where it has been teaching children aged 3-12 since 2018, she witnessed ‘a positive learning vibe that was almost tangible.’
‘Children in the school were confident to talk to me and could clearly articulate their learning,’ she says. ‘The students were engaged and proud of the work they were completing.’
What she noticed, in particular, was a culture of resilience, which she believes is crucial for students to be successful in both life and school. ‘The commitment staff have to creating engaging and robust lessons and activities really helps each child to work in their zone of proximal development,’ she explains. ‘As a result, students are willing to have a go, and if they make mistakes, to try again.’
Like the students, Ms Wade is unafraid of a challenge. ‘I feel it is exciting,’ she says, when asked about starting a new school from scratch, though she admits it may appear daunting for some.
She is looking forward to September when the senior school opens and sees it as ‘a great opportunity’ to shape the new school during its formative years and guide it through its first steps. Parents, too, know how quickly the early years pass, but with a senior school like Amity now opening its doors, more of them can be reassured about their child’s future.
*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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