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New Leiden International School has room to grow in a region with a huge international community

When we put together our Dispatches lists of the best cities for expats, a major consideration is, “Do they have international schools where English is the language?” So, a new school is a big deal for our expat readers.

Good news for expats in Randstad – the new International School Leiden started last year with four students in the elementary grades but already has plans for expansion.

Central location

School organizers chose the location just south of Leiden’s centrum because it’s convenient to not just the city, but to the larger region, said Ryan Midgley, a spokesperson and teach assistant ISL. That includes Leiden’s suburbs, surrounding towns and nearby Den Haag.

(Editor’s note: The Randstad region includes Leiden and other major Dutch cities representing about half of the Netherlands’ 17.5 million population.)

Teachers work individually with students (photo courtesy of ISL)

Midgley said ISL started the year with four students and now enrollment is up to 27, with six or seven more students expected to enroll by mid-March. With a handful of students, ISL already has attracted parents working at Leiden Bio Science Park, one of the Netherlands’ largest life sciences and health research parks.

The youngest students are five years old and the eldest are 10 to 11 in Group 7.

The native of Leeds, England said he’s experienced how quickly schools can grow, joining the founding ISL team from International School Delft. That school started with seven students and when he left after eight years, enrollment was up to 220, Midgley said.

ISL has had students transfer from the British School in the Netherlands in nearby Den Haag because the families actually live in Leiden. “They’ve been at the British school for the last two or three years, and they’ve been waiting for for this to happen.”

Families from Australia and South Africa have enrolled students, and Midgley says the school staff is going into the busy period now – March, April, May – when parents are considering their education options for the next school year.

Parents are finding most international schools are full, and Midgley expects ISL enrollment to grow dramatically for the 2023-2024 school year. “We have 10 classrooms, so there’s plenty of room,” with a total capacity up to 300 students, he said.

A new curriculum and a plan for growth

ISL is an International Primary Curriculum school, a program introduced in 2000. IPC is one of the fastest growing cirricula in the world, used at more than 1,000 schools in 90 countries, according the school website.

Advantages include:

  • flexibility. IPC can be adapted to children’s interests and level of understanding.
  • integration. IPC can be integrated with other curriculum.
  • simple but structured. The curriculum is focused on subject, personal and international learning goals.
  • global focus. IPC learners become globally competent learners, developing an understanding of the world.

And that’s the point, Midgley said. Parents working for international companies want to know when they move on “whether it be to Qatar, or America or even to England or Australia, can our curriculum go with them? Can they just drop in, in another location?

“And the answer to that is yes”

Parents are also finding ISL fees attractive. “They are, so to speak, a little less demanding” than other schools, Midgley said. ISL is accessible to a broader range of parents in that school fees and tuition are 4,700 euros per year compared to 10,000 euros – and up tp 30,000 euros – at other international schools in Europe and the Middle East.

Finally, an element that sets ISL apart from other schools on our lists in that Roman Catholic values are part of its educational approach. But Midgley tells Dispatches the school welcomes families of all faiths and observes the customs of many cultures. “All creeds are welcome.”

The school did take students to church at Christmas as well as on a field trip to learn about the Pilgrims who came to the Netherlands on their way to the New World. But the school also observes Eid and other non-Christian holidays.

“The mission of the school is to make our students, global citizens, and I think an important part of that is to be globally knowledgeable. So, we don’t shut anybody out.”

ISL opened with a five-year plan, sufficient funding from private sources, the Dutch government and the Leiden geemente to establish as a primary school because at the moment, there’s more of a demand for primary education.

“We’re not going anywhere for the next five years,” Midgley said.

The details:

• ISL offers Dutch lessons every week to help kids integrate into the culture, but classes are in English

• ISL has a curriculum based on Christian tradition, but all creeds are welcome. It is part of the school board Stichting Confessioneel Onderwijs Leiden, which translates to Foundation for Confessional Education Leiden.

• ISL has no bus transportation but is only a 10-to-15-minute bike ride from the main train station.

You can apply here.

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Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.

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