Tuesday 04 October 2022

Home from home: a small-scale boarding school in the Dutch countryside

The school complex from the air. Photo: Eerde International Boarding School

The location of the Netherlands’ only international boarding school could not be more idyllic. The school also offers a broad, problem-solving approach to learning, in which the countryside is as important as the curriculum.

Housed on a country estate in Overijssel, Eerde International Boarding School looks out over the fields and forests. The old orangerie has been turned into a studio for the school’s budding artists. The 17th century castle is home to the library and dining rooms while the main classrooms are partially hidden beneath a grassy roof, but inside are full of light.

EIBS is not like the traditional boarding school, and if you are looking for a school where a uniform and strict discipline are the order of the day, you would be in the wrong place. EIBS is very much a community, where children from 20 nationalities across the globe live, study and play together, and in which the countryside is as important as the classroom.

Home from home in a dorm sitting room

‘Our parents are sharing their most valuable asset with us, their child,’ says the school’s senior sales and marketing manager Kathy Vos. ‘It is one thing to send your children to school, it is another to be on the other side of the world from them. Parents are trusting us with their safety, their well-being and their future, because that is what education is. This is something we take very seriously.’

Boarding house parents

The school offers day school for all ages and flexible boarding and full boarding facilities for older children. The two dorms, on either side of the big house, are divided into cosy shared rooms with their own kitchen and sitting room. Each boarding house also has its own residential ‘parent’ who keep an eye out for homesickness and lend an ear when needed.

‘The location needs to feel like a home, so our pupils can set their room up as they like, and if they are studying and they want a late night snack, they can make something in the kitchen, just like at home,’ says Kathy. ‘They are not leaving their identity and culture behind. They are bringing it with them.’

The team is very aware that boarding can be difficult for some children, particularly if they have never been away from home before, so it has developed a buddy system to make sure new arrivals don’t feel alone.

The art department

The buddy will help the new arrival settle in and find their way around both the school and the extra curricular activities on offer, which include swimming, yoga and horse riding – thanks to the school’s close relationship with the De Hazelhorst Equestrian Centre.

After school activities

‘One thing about being located in a place popular with holidaymakers is that we have a lot of activities available for the children at weekends. Our pupils sign up for three activities outside school hours,’ says Kathy. ‘Eerde is about giving responsibility and space for young adults to express themselves and feel welcome while doing so.’

The school offers a broad curriculum, including IPC (International Primary Curriculum), IMYC (International Middle Years Curriculum), Cambridge IGCSE and the International Baccalaureate, so that each child can work at their own pace – particularly important for those who do not have English as a first language.

‘We offer alternative pathways towards reaching the student’s goal,’ says Kathy. ‘We can assist students with special educational needs both internally and externally.’ The aim is to help each child reach their full potential by providing the educational tools, the encouraging environment and the diverse experiences to shape their path to success.

‘Parents who have been moving round the globe understand the opportunity out there for their children and the importance of good education in a stable environment, and that is what we provide. We want to know their stories, we keep our community small with a wide variety of backgrounds, as we aim to focus on our students individually,’ says recruitment officer Ayu Restila.

Community

The school pupils are also active within the wider Ommen community, running a winter fair ahead of the Christmas break or helping out at the animal shelter. ‘IB is all about problem-based learning, so we leave it up to the children to decide what activities to undertake within the community,’ says Kathy.

Recently the children raised €9,000 swimming around the castle moat in March for relief efforts in Ukraine. They have also started collecting old bikes in the locality and repairing them, for donation to refugee children, together with the Ommen Rotary Club.

Stroll around the grounds and you will come across children painting a mural, playing an enthusiastic game of football or quietly doing their homework. In the orchard, a ladder waits underneath a cherry tree, where older pupils have been picking fruit for the desert at the evening’s prom.

The main school building blends into the countryside. Photo: DutchNews.nl

‘It does not matter what race, what religion, what culture,’ says Kathy. ‘When you talk to a mother or father, they want one thing, the best possible future for their child. A good education is the pathway to that. We know all the pupils by name, of course we do. They are our children.’

To find out more about the school, its ethos and its curriculum, feel free to get in touch.

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