So you’re off to live in Frankfurt, or perhaps you’re just considering it. You like the thought of new beers and wines to try, a new language to master, being in the centre or Europe, but this move isn’t just about you. There are little people to consider, or maybe just twinkles in your eye. Either way, the question remains: what are you going to do about schooling your children?
There are a lot of educational opportunities in Frankfurt and the surrounding area and your decision may also influence where you choose to live, but essentially there are two options: the German school system or an alternative private system.
Germany’s school system is federal, meaning there are state-to-state differences, but essentially most children are in Kindergarten until they start Grundschule at the age of six. Starting school is a big event in Germany, with ceremonies and parties commemorating the special day. Children are expected to be organised and motivated and most get homework every day. The school day is usually over by lunchtime and although most schools do offer some form of after-school care, the availability varies.
Grundschule lasts for four years, and after that children either go to a Gymnasium, the most academic option where they work towards their Abitur (the German equivalent of A levels), a middle-ranking Realschule, or a less academic Hauptschule. There is also a rising popularity for the Gesamtschule, which combines all three options. The type of school a child attends is a decision taken by the parents based on a recommendation from their teachers. Regardless of the type of school attended, the curriculum is wide and varied, all children study English, and often another foreign language. It is perhaps worth noting that in the 2018 PISA rankings (Program for International School Assessment), Germany was ranked at number 13, while the UK came in at 23.
However, there is a growing popularity for alternatives to the German school system, even among German families, and Frankfurt has an abundance of options. There is currently only one school in the area that offers a British school system, and that is the newly opened King’s College, Frankfurt, located in Friedrichsdorf. Built with a capacity for 600 pupils from 3-18 with a view to offer GCSEs and A levels, it is currently only open to pupils aged 3-10. If you are keen for your teenagers to take their GCSEs imminently, Frankfurt Metropolitan School and the International School of Frankfurt do offer the International GCSE programme.
Beyond this though, parents may need to become familiar with alternative education programmes in order to make an informed choice. Many schools in the area offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB). This is a broad, academic, two-year programme, usually taken by students around the age of 18. Students are required to study six subjects (including a foreign language, maths and a science), complete a largely self-taught extended essay and participate in extra-curricular activities for CAS (creativity, activity and service) credit. In the Frankfurt area, the IB is offered by Frankfurt International School, the International School of Frankfurt (yes, these are two different schools!), Frankfurt Metropolitan School, Strothoff International School and Accadis International School. Perhaps confusingly, the European School Frankfurt and the European School Rhein-Main (in Bad Vilbel) offer the European Baccalaureate diploma (EB). This two-year programme requires students to take ten courses, including two languages. Both the IB and the EB are recognised by UCAS, allowing unhindered access to British universities.
Aside from the IB and the EB, there are other courses available within Frankfurt’s schools. Strothoff International School and the International School of Frankfurt offer the US High School Diploma, and at Phorms School and the International School of Frankfurt students can work towards Advanced Placement, an American and Canadian programme offering college-level curricula to high school students. Some schools, such as Erasmus School, Strothoff International School and many local, state Gymnasiums, also offer a bilingual version of the German Abitur.
For younger pupils, there are a number of bilingual and English-speaking nurseries and primary schools, including Obermayr International School, Kids Camp in Königstein and Kinderzeit Schule in Schwalbach. All the schools previously mentioned also have primary provision, and some state Grundschules have bilingual programmes.
So now we’ve covered what’s available, how can parents go about making the best decision for their child? One of the key questions will of course be how long do you intend to stay in Frankfurt or Germany? If a return to the UK is fairly definite and relatively imminent, then an English-speaking international school is probably the most sensible and least disruptive option. All schools are legally required to teach German, so your child should still get a good grounding in the language, but maintaining English as their main academic language will help with future transition. If, however, Germany is set to be a more permanent home, then you may wish to consider a bilingual option, or even a German state school. Children can pick up a foreign language at an astonishing speed, so if your child is under the age of ten then a lack of German need not be a barrier to attending a German school. It may be a daunting prospect, but immersion is the most effective way to learn.
Beyond this though, the only real way to get to know a school is to visit, preferably more than once, and to speak to pupils, parents and teachers about their experiences. All schools are different and suit different students; don’t forget to look beyond the academic and consider if the extra-curricular provisions would suit your child.
Parental Choice are experts in Childcare and help working families with balancing their busy lives. This extends to global mobility and relocation services personally, or through your company. We can assist you in making this process smooth and stress-free.
Through close work with our consultants on the ground, we are experts both in the UK as well as the German school system. We can provide detailed or brief overviews of anything ranging from moving to Germany, settling in there or finding the right school or childcare setting. We have ties with many international schools and nurseries and are happy to put you in touch with them. The final choice, however, will always be yours!