Expat Essentials

Expat Essentials: Dispatches’ guide to international schools in Portugal, Pt. 3

It’s a fundamental reality of being an expat: One of the biggest challenges for English-speaking expat families – even for well-paid corporate nomads – is finding satisfactory, English-language international schools.

Such schools cater to expat students, with curricula tied to the host nation in question, or an international education organization such as Edexcel, Cambridge International Examinations, and International Baccalaureate; if you’re curious about the International Baccalaureate program, Dispatches Europe has a primer for your convenience.

Wherever you’re headed, do not wait to get there before starting the application process with your preferred international school, which can be lengthy.

Portugal is 46th in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competiveness Report for 2016-17, which “assesses the ability of countries to provide high levels of prosperity to their citizens.” The majority of its international trading occurs within the European Union, hovering around 75 percent for goods imported into/exported from the world’s first global superpower.

Most of Portugal’s multinational corporations gather in Lisbon and Porto; both cities also hold the distinction of being Portugal’s only global cities (Lisbon an alpha-level city, Porto a gamma+ level city), as acknowledged by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group.

Multinationals that call Portugal home include:

SEAT (pronounced SAY-ought; part of the Volkswagen Group); EDP (electric utility whose headquarters looks like it literally produces energy); and Sonae (retailer with a presence in over 60 countries). State-owned companies in Portugal include airline TAP Portugal; mass media corporation RTP; and Caixa Geral de Depósitos, the country’s second-largest bank and largest financial group.

Finally, Portugal has been a part of the eurozone since day one in 1999; the average salary is €910/month; and the minimum wage is €540/month.

And of course, lots of English-language international schools, like these in our third and final look at education options in the world’s first global superpower.

Sintra International Christian Academy: Located in the Greater Lisbon area in Sintra, Sintra International Christian Academy opened up its doors in September 2017 to its first group of K4 through 12th-grade students. SICA uses a rigorous Christian curriculum based on the United States education system, with seniors enrolled in college prep classes “to excel in their SATs and attend American or international universities.”

Operated by Comunidade Cristã and a member of the Association of Christian Schools International, SICA’s mission is to inspire “a sustaining Christian faith, a respect for a diverse world, and a call to service” among its students, and to do so “in a supportive, Christian environment.”

  • Fees (2017-18 academic year): €200 non-refundable registration fee for first child enrolled, €100 for each additional child; €5,000 – €6,000 annual tuition and uniform fee, depending on grade level and proficiency in the English language (fees will be higher for those needing English-language lessons)
  • Requirements: Download, complete and submit application form with required documentation and registration fee
  • Application Deadline: N/A; contact school for information
  • Contact: sintrachristianacademy@gmail.com
  • Website: www.sintrainternationalchristianacademy.org

St. James’ School: Founded in 2007 as an expansion of/successor to St. George’s School in Cascais, St. James’ School “is a school where children from ages 6 to 12 leave prepared to continue their learning path in both the Portuguese and the English/International learning systems.”

The primary school is a member of ECIS and the University of Cambridge, and follows the classical model of education, anchored upon the English National Curriculum. St. James educates its students in a bilingual environment, with the aim of preparing each student “to live in a multicultural society and to recognise and take advantage of the valuable contribution the different cultural backgrounds can make to their education.”

  • Fees (2018-19 academic year): €460 annual entry fee; €20 annual insurance fee; €5,070 – €5,170 annual tuition fee; depending on grade level; full schedule of fees here
  • Requirements: Complete online application form
  • Application Deadline: N/A; contact school for information
  • Contact: Via contact form
  • Website: www.stjamesschool.pt


St. John’s School: For the littlest ones in your family, St. John’s School in Cascais uses a personalized approach to education, anchored upon the English National Curriculum. Like St. James’ School above — which is a partner with St. John’ s— the nursery/preschool shares a history with the defunct St. George’s, serving as the starting point for education from the nursery to the first year of primary education.

Since opening its doors in 2001, St. John’s has been in a constant state of evolution, using “affectivty, caring and a closer approach to the children” to help the littlest ones in your family adapt to the education environment. By the time they move on to St. James’, students learn to speak and write in English, develop the basics in maths, and even learn to swim; the Atlantic Ocean’s not far away, after all.

  • Fees (2017-18 academic year): €450 entry fee and insurance; €475 to €485 monthly tuition fee, depending on grade level; full schedule of fees here
  • Requirements: Complete online application form
  • Application Deadline: N/A; contact school for information
  • Contact: info@stjohns-school.com
  • Website: www.stjohns-school.com

St Julian’s School: Once the home of King José I of Portugal in the mid-1700s, St. Julian’s School in Carcavelos first opened its doors in 1932.

Today, it is home to more than 1,100 students aged 3 to 18 from over 40 nations, each one learning under one of three different curriculum programmes: the Portuguese national curriculum; the English National Curriculum; and the International Baccalaureate Diploma.

No matter where the student is in their education, St. Julian’s provides a “warm and inviting learning environment inspired by dedicated and passionate teachers,” as the school believes “a happy student is one who will succeed.”

  • Fees (2018-19 academic year): €1,000 non-refundable registration fee;
    €4,200 one-time non-refundable capital levy; €9,648 – €22,560 annual tuition fee, depending on grade level; full schedule of fees here
  • Requirements: Complete online registration of interest form; complete online application form, submit with required documentation and registration fee; complete interview; confirm acceptance with capital levy payment
  • Application Deadline: 31 January for 2018-19 academic year; 16 February – 30 April for re-enrollment in 2018-19 academic year; 1 through 31 May for new applications if space is available; 1 September onward for enrollment in 2019-20 academic year
  • Contact: ccoelho@stjulians.com
  • Website: www.stjulians.com

St. Peter’s International School: St. Peter’s International School in Palmela “provides a competitive, high-quality response to the needs of a diverse population” growing up rapidly in a constantly changing world.

The school’s mission “is to build self-reliant, critical, creative students, who have the necessary skills and abilities to perform well at a personal, social and professional level, thus allowing them to pursue their studies, benefitting from an active and significant integration into a rapidly changing and increasingly globalized society.”

To do this, St. Peter’s is a multi-lingual school, with English and Portuguese taking point under the English National and Portuguese National curricula. Students are prepared to enter the IB Diploma Programme in Grades 11 through 12. The school also offers a summer camp with week-long programmes.

  • Fees (2018-19 academic year): N/A; contact school for information
  • Requirements: Complete online application form
  • Application Deadline: N/A; contact school for information
  • Contact: geral@stpeters.pt
  • Website: www.st-peters-school.com


Vale Verde International School: Founded in 2002, Vale Verde International School in Burgau offers primary students a bilingual education, while its secondary students go on to tackle the Cambridge IGCSE and Advanced Levels.

Vale Verde’s aim is to “prepare young people in the Western Algarve to take their full place in society,” and to “provide the community with a balanced, quality education of an international character, initially through the medium of English and Portuguese, and from year 7 predominantly through the medium of English, based upon sound values and high expectations in all fields.”

The school offers also offers a bilingual programme to preschool students as young as three years old, and conducts its classes from then through year 6 in a 50/50 split between English and Portuguese. Academics, creativity and culture are emphasized in Vale Verde’s curriculum.

  • Fees (2017-18 academic year): €250 registration fee; €5,373 – €8,064 annual tuition fee, depending on grade level; full schedule of fees here
  • Requirements: Complete and submit an application with required documentation and registration fee; undergo placement testing
  • Application Deadline: x
  • Contact: admissions@vvis.org
  • Website: www.vvis.org

Vilamoura International School: Also known as Colégio Internacional de Vilamoura – CIV, Vilamoura International School in Vilamoura considers itself “the most prestigious educational institute (Pre-school, Primary School and Secondary School) in the South of Portugal.”

VIS’s curriculum covers the Portuguese National, English National and Cambridge International curricula, and has spent over three decades investing in early learning of foreign languages, as well as research, mathematics, and liberal arts.

Vilamoura’s teaching philosophy is influenced by “the ideas of Vygotsky, Goodlad, Gardner, Bourdieu and Bernstein,” placing education in the hands of their students via promotion of “cognitive-developmental philosophies associated with the foundations of international education.”

  • Fees (2017-18 academic year): €250 – €300 non-refundable registration fee, depending on grade level; €170 non-refundable re-enrollment fee; €5,125 –
    €9,610 annual tuition fee, depending on grade level; full schedule of fees here
  • Requirements: Complete and submit application with documentation
  • Application Deadline: N/A; contact school for information
  • Contact: colegiodevilamoura@civ.pt
  • Website: www.civ.pt
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