5 questions to consider when enrolling your child in international school

5 questions to consider when enrolling your child in international school

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Moving to a new, international, location can be a stressful experience. The stress is multiplied when moving with school-age children. Katy Kennedy provides some insight based on her own experiences. At the end of their search, her family chose the International School of Düsseldorf (ISD), where the open classrooms and wide-ranging IB curriculum allow her children to thrive. 

Moving to Düsseldorf in 2015 was a wonderful, terrifying, but ultimately rewarding experience. While ostensibly we moved from England to Düsseldorf for my husband's job, in truth we had always wanted the adventure of living abroad.

Before confirming the job, salary and benefits, we began researching education options in Düsseldorf. At the time, our two boys were aged five and seven. They were (and still are!) kind, funny, clever boys. When the search began, we believed the secondment would last three years. That timeframe has happily been extended.

We were lucky that our relocation agent was able to show us around the local international schools and neighbourhoods during several very cold December days. It was definitely December, because every time the experience overwhelmed me, my husband took me to a Weihnachtsmarkt for a Glühwein

Choosing the right international school in Germany

Each family’s school decision is unique, based on the factors that are most critical in their current circumstances. However, it is important to think through a variety of different things when making your school choice. Here are what I believe are the 5 most critical factors: 

1. Will my child be happy at the school? 

This is the number one question that any parent considering a change has for their child. Our family considered both short- and long-term happiness. 

  • Short-term: does the school have a good anti bullying policy? 
  • Long-term: will the school provide them with good qualifications for further education? 

We asked many questions about the support given to students who come from a different culture. The happiness of our children was our number one criteria. 

2. How does the education philosophy compare to our home country? 

This was an agonising question for us. Was it better to have the children remain in the same schooling system, or did we want to offer them a chance at a different type of education? If we repatriated back to the UK, would the children manage? I was reassured by several factors:

Facts vs facts

Did you know there are at least 3 million different “facts” that we could teach our children at any given time? Who decides what is an important and essential fact? In the UK, we think knowing that Henry VIII had six wives is an important fact. But if my children go on to live in Japan, does anyone care that they don’t know that Anne of Cleves was wife number four? 

Maths & Science vs Socialising

School is not just about maths and science, it's also about socialising and learning to work with others. In all international schools, the mix of cultures and languages means that on any day you can be playing with a European, South American and/or an Asian child on the playground. 

Testing vs Inquiry-based learning

Do we want the children to be tested regularly or do we encourage inquiry-based learning? To be honest, we had never considered these questions but we knew we didn’t like the way our children had been graded at four years old and told what they were “good” or “bad” at, particularly so early in their school careers. 

3. How big is the school and what is the infrastructure like?  

We wanted the children to go to a larger school, especially since the international community moves around a lot! We learned from experience, it is really hard to watch your children say good-bye to their best friend. 

As a result, finding a school with several classes for each grade - so our children had a choice of friendships - was an important criterion. As a parent, you look for modern technology, good student / teacher ratio and a nice school gym. Our children picked their favourite based on the playground! 

4. Which after-school activities are on offer?

Making sure that the children have a wide range of opportunities and sports to keep them busy can also be important. The move to Germany gave me more time with the children and more chances for us to do things after school. 

We wanted a school with music lessons, sports classes, circus skills, a drama club, and more. These after-school activities mean a lot of local travel, but we have cross country, piano, trumpet, swimming, rugby and table tennis this year alone! Their opportunities are endless. 

5. What is the school community like?

One for me this time: It was important to find a community to support me as we made the transition from the UK to Germany. From help with food shopping, to learning where to buy school shoes, learning that I would need my name on the postbox or I would never receive mail! 

At ISD, there is a Welcome Committee for new families, opportunities to volunteer at the school, grade level coffees, representatives from most countries and much, much more. 

When it comes to your children, trust your intuition

With these criteria in mind, we chose the right school for our family. Each family must decide what is right for their children. We are fortunate in Düsseldorf to have the choice of several different international schools. 

Most parents I speak to have one thing in common: they want their children to be happy. Have confidence in your intuition – it’s probably right! 

Students at the International School of Düsseldorf receive an innovative, holistic education that equips them with all the skills to become successful and responsible in an evolving world. As well as providing a challenging academic programme and extensive extra-curricular opportunities, ISD acts as a focal point for the wider community, offering many opportunities for parents and staff to also get involved.

Katy Kennedy


Katy Kennedy

Hi, Im Katy Kennedy, founder of the International Women in Business, Düsseldorf. The International Women in Business Düsseldorf is a non-profit network that supports internationally-minded women from all backgrounds living...

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