In­ter­na­tional A warmer ed­u­ca­tion

Sunny spots near the best over­seas schools

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

With to­mor­row’s ap­pli­ca­tions dead­line for UK pri­mary schools, get­ting the best ed­u­ca­tion for their chil­dren is at the fore­front of many par­ents’ minds. Yet some will be cast­ing their eyes fur­ther afield and con­sid­er­ing the ben­e­fits of bring­ing up their fam­ily abroad.

Times have moved on from the days of Swiss fin­ish­ing schools. Par­ents are seek­ing an en­vi­ron­ment that of­fers an out­door life­style, cos­mopoli­tan out­look, flu­ency in two or three lan­guages and a good ba­sis for trans­fer back into the UK sys­tem.

There’s a lot more choice to­day, too. In an in­creas­ingly glob­alised world, the de­mand for in­ter­na­tional schools teach­ing an English cur­ricu­lum is grow­ing dra­mat­i­cally. There are now 8,443 in­ter­na­tional schools world­wide, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional School Con­sul­tancy Group (ISC) – an in­crease of 42 per cent in five years.

“Not only is the de­mand for these schools from ex­pa­tri­ates but in­creas­ingly from lo­cal fam­i­lies look­ing for the best route to higher ed­u­ca­tion for their chil­dren,” says Richard Gaskell, di­rec­tor for in­ter­na­tional schools at the ISC.

While the great­est ex­pan­sion has been across Asia, Amer­ica and the Mid­dle East, closer to home the in­creased pop­u­lar­ity of re­mote work­ing and shift­ing life­style pri­or­i­ties has seen fam­i­lies de­camp­ing to Euro­pean lo­ca­tions. So where are the pop­u­lar hot spots for ex­pats seek­ing a dif­fer­ent pace of life with­out hav­ing to com­pro­mise on schools?

Côte d’Azur

For many ex­pats at­tracted to France, the qual­ity of school­ing is a ma­jor driver in it­self. This was the case for Ruby Soames, a lec­turer in ed­u­ca­tion who left the UK 14 years ago with her jour­nal­ist hus­band and two-year-old daugh­ter Blue­bell. They moved to the el­e­gant univer­sity town of Aix-enProvence, be­fore re­lo­cat­ing to Nice for a more cos­mopoli­tan buzz. “I used to teach in UK state schools and thought the more so­cial­ist French sys­tem sounded fairer,” says Soames, 49. “I think Bri­tish peo­ple mov­ing to France for a few years should al­ways start with the state sys­tem as the stan­dards are very high. But if a child is above 11, join­ing would be tough be­cause of the lan­guage, so an in­ter­na­tional school could be bet­ter.” Blue­bell, and her brother Edi­son, now 12, started at the lo­cal French school in Nice. “It was only when Blue­bell was learn­ing Romeo and Juliet that I thought, ac­tu­ally, I’d re­ally much rather she did it in English,” Soames says. “She is very aca­demic and man­aged to get into the Cen­tre In­ter­na­tional de Val­bonne (CIV). She had to pass an exam – only 24 out of 2,000 ap­pli­cants got in that year.”

Blue­bell, now 16, loved her new school. “At the lo­cal French school in Nice I had to quickly adapt if I didn’t want to fall be­hind. There were no ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties and it was a lot of learn­ing by heart,” she says.

“But at CIV I was bom­barded by theatre classes, sport clubs, films show­ing at the school’s cin­ema, Model United Na­tions de­bates – the school was much more cul­tur­ally di­verse, dy­namic and imag­i­na­tive than my pre­vi­ous school.”

If your child doesn’t make it into CIV, pres­ti­gious al­ter­na­tives in the area in­clude the In­ter­na­tional School of Nice (ISN), Fénelon de Grasse and the An­glo-ori­ented Mou­g­ins School. Fees vary be­tween €15,000 and €20,000 (around £13,000 to £17,400) a year, de­pend­ing on age.

“Bri­tish par­ents choose Mou­g­ins be­cause they want their chil­dren to do A-lev­els to get into an English univer­sity, but also be­cause it is ex­cel­lent for spe­cial needs like dyslexia – un­like most French or pri­vate schools,” says Soames.

Many ex­pats live in the vil­lage of Mouans-Sar­toux, about six miles north of Cannes and con­ve­niently lo­cated for both CIV and Mou­g­ins School, says Chris McGuin­ness of Fine and Coun­try.

“For­eign buy­ers love Val­bonne as prop­erty prices are lower than Mou­g­ins, but you can get a four- bed­room fam­ily home in Mou­g­ins – with­out views or need­ing work – for around €1.75 mil­lion,” he says.

Florence

Within Italy, Florence of­fers some of the best op­tions for in­ter­na­tional school­ing. Many over­seas stu­dents at the city’s pres­ti­gious art acad­e­mies stay on to live there, ac­cord­ing to Lynne Davie of Beauchamp Es­tates.

“Par­ents need to un­der­stand the dif­fer­ent sys­tems,” she says. “Pri­vate schools are ei­ther run by re­li­gious or­gan­i­sa­tions or are in­ter­na­tional and the lat­ter is the ob­vi­ous choice for ex­pat fam­i­lies – al­though they can be ex­pen­sive, up to €25,000 per year.”

The In­ter­na­tional School of Florence, one of the old­est in Europe,

‘I’d rather she learn Romeo and Juliet in English’

teaches in English, Ital­ian and French. Al­ter­na­tively, Ital­ian state school­ing, which Davie says is “aca­demic and di­dac­tic”, teaches English as a sec­ond lan­guage and much ef­fort is made to in­te­grate ex­pat chil­dren.

Strong de­mand from both in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal buy­ers is driv­ing the city’s prop­erty mar­ket.

Barcelona

The ISC points to an ex­pan­sion – es­pe­cially in Spain – of bilin­gual schools that teach in English but of­fer a dif­fer­ent cur­ricu­lum, such as the In­ter­na­tional Bac­calau­re­ate (IB).

This aca­demic year, the Bri­tish School of Barcelona opened a new secondary and sixth form cam­pus in the nearby beach town of Sit­ges that will draw more Bri­tish ex­pats to the area, ac­cord­ing to Beatriz Carro de Prada, a con­sul­tant at BRS Re­lo­ca­tion Ser­vices.

“English-ori­ented Agora In­ter­na­tional School at Sant Cu­gat is the top-ranked school, and has his­tor­i­cally at­tracted Bri­tons to the Sar­rià district of Barcelona,” she says. “Fam­i­lies at the pop­u­lar Bri­tish School of Barcelona like to live close by in Castellde­fels.”

Buy­ers should also look north at the Maresme coast for the pop­u­lar Hamelin Laie In­ter­na­tional School at Mont­gat, says Tom Maiden of es­tate agency Lu­cas Fox. “Prop­erty prices are more com­pet­i­tive than in Sit­ges, Castellde­fels and St Cu­gat and the area of­fers 50km of beaches, mari­nas, equestrian cen­tres and golf,” he says.

Mal­lorca

Ex­pats with chil­dren have his­tor­i­cally based them­selves with easy ac­cess to Palma, where all the in­ter­na­tional schools are based.

Now there is an op­tion in the north­east of the is­land, with the open­ing of the Amer­i­can In­ter­na­tional School of Mal­lorca on the cam­pus of the Rafa Nadal Academy at Mana­cor.

The new school is not just for ten­nis-ori­ented chil­dren, and its global mix of stu­dents come from Spain, Ger­many, the UK, Ro­ma­nia and Rus­sia.

Fees are from €10,500 per year, and prop­erty prices are lower around Mana­cor than in Palma.

Mar­bella

With more than 60,000 Bri­tons liv­ing in sun-drenched An­dalu­sia, there’s long been a de­mand for in­ter­na­tional schools and there are dozens of op­tions on the Costa del Sol.

Sev­eral at­tract ex­pats to spe­cific ar­eas such as the vil­lage of Be­na­havis, which has a new pri­vate school, Ata­laya Col­lege, ac­cord­ing to James Vizetelly of Ch­ester­tons Affin­ity.

“The school run can be an is­sue with traf­fic, so we do get par­ents want­ing to buy a home within a 20-minute drive of Aloha In­ter­na­tional Col­lege, one of the most sought-after schools,” he says.

“The same goes for EIC (the English In­ter­na­tional Col­lege) in Elviria, which also has a long wait­ing list.”

Aloha, Swans In­ter­na­tional School in Mar­bella and Deutsche Schule Juan Hoff­mann, the Ger­man school in Elviria, are the three most asked-for schools by over­seas buy­ers, ac­cord­ing to Sav­ills.

One prob­lem with in­ter­na­tional schools is the poor level of Span­ish taught, warns Vizetelly. “For that rea­son I send my son, Luca, five, to a Span­ish school, Cole­gio San Jose. I don’t want him to strug­gle with the lan­guage when liv­ing in Spain.”

Gi­bral­tar

A few miles west in Gi­bral­tar, Prior Park – an off­shoot of the Bath-based in­de­pen­dent school – opened in Septem­ber, in­creas­ing the de­sir­abil­ity of the area.

Bri­tons re­lo­cat­ing face a choice be­tween liv­ing there or across the Span­ish bor­der in So­togrande, says Mike Ni­cholls of Ch­ester­ton.

While So­togrande In­ter­na­tional School, set within a large gated es­tate of lux­ury homes, has long been a pop­u­lar op­tion for ex­pats, Gi­bral­tar’s tax regime is the most be­nign in Europe.

“Most buy­ers with chil­dren want our ad­vice on whether to live in So­togrande or Gi­bral­tar, and while the lat­ter has a great ‘one size fits all’ state sys­tem, it has al­ways lacked a good in­de­pen­dent school,” says Ni­cholls.

His son Harry, 15, has flour­ished at So­togrande, where fees reach €15,000 per year, but his daugh­ter Lucy, 12, en­rolled at Prior Park, at £9,000 for the first year. Its head­mas­ter, Peter Watts, re­ports that of the 60 new pupils, 49 are Bri­tish, with oth­ers from Hol­land, In­dia, Rus­sia and the Czech Repub­lic.

Ni­cholls says that many ex­pats with pupils at So­togrande, like him, live at Ocean Vil­lage Ma­rina, a cos­mopoli­tan com­mu­nity 10 min­utes from the bor­der and air­port. Prices vary from £600,000 for a fourbed­room prop­erty to £1.5 mil­lion for a pent­house (oceanvil­lage.gi).

The tax regime in Gi­bral­tar is the most be­nign in Europe

In­vest: this fourbed­room Florence villa is €4.75 mil­lion with Sotheby’s, main; Ruby Soames with Blue­bell and Edi­son, be­low

Top of the class: a five-bed­room home, above, near the Bri­tish School of Barcelona is €1.55 mil­lion with Lu­cas Fox

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