Country houses for sale

Best international independent schools

Please note: fees date from 2007

King’s College Madrid, Spain, 00 34 918 034 800

King’s College sets out to deliver the best in British educational traditions—and it lives up to the promise. Founded in 1969, the school quickly acquired a reputation for academic excellence, which it continues to uphold today, thanks to good teaching and ‘very good support and guidance’ from the head (Independent Schools Inspectorate report 2002). All this shows in exam results, which are consistently high, opening the doors to prestigious universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, London’s Imperial College, Scotland’s St Andrews, and the Universidad Complutense in Madrid.

‘I’m proud of our students’ success and of their responsiveness,’ says Headmaster David Johnson. ‘Our students are excellent in becoming involved not just in the classroom but also in sports, music and drama, and that’s an indication of a healthy school.’

School type: co-ed day and boarding school.

Age groups: 2-18.

Admission: selective, with admission criteria varying according to the candidate’s age. Priority is given to students with a good level of English.

Enrolment: more than 1700.

Location and campus: the main campus is set in 12-acre grounds north of Madrid. Another complex in central Madrid offers nursery to year 2 classes, and a new campus is scheduled to open this autumn. The main campus has two music room, an art studio, seven science labs, and a wide array of sports facilities, including a 25-m indoor pool and an 11-side football pitch.

Curriculum: British national curriculum, with optional Spanish Bachillerato studies.

Annual fees: from €5,181 to €10,000 (about £3,500 to £6,750) for day pupils. Boarding fees are an additional €7527 (£5,083).

Examination results: In 2006, 94% of students gained A-C grades at IGSCE level (52.9% got A-A* grades). 61.2% gained A-B grades at A-level.

Other schools in the group: British School of Alicante, King’s College Murcia, British School of Beijing, St Michael’s College in the UK.

British School of Paris, Paris, France, 00 33 1 34 80 45 90

Excellent teaching and good discipline in a caring atmosphere are the mainstays at the British School of Paris. Headmaster Richard Woodall encapsulates his approach in a sentence: ‘we want children to be happy first so they can work harder.’ And to ensure children are really happy, the school ‘bends over backwards to help people settle in—the families as much as the children.’ It organises social events for parents, invites them to the library to read English language newspapers, and offers French lessons to newcomers, as well as having pastoral teams to look after the children. This, coupled with ‘absolutely fantastic teachers’ and small class sizes delivers academic success. Mr Woodall is understandably proud of his students’ exam results—70% of them achieved A-B grades at A-level last year—which are all the more outstanding when considering that the school has an open intake policy, only half the children are English native speakers, and many of them join at different times of the year.

Type of school: day co-ed.

Age groups: 4-18.

Admission: open intake. The school asks prospective students to take a verbal reasoning test but ‘it’s not a pass or fail test,’ says headmaster Richard Woodall. ‘It’s a baseline test to help us [assess them] because they come from different parts of the world with different reporting systems.’ If a student performs particularly poorly in the tests, ‘we’d give them learning support.’

Enrolment: more than 800 from 50 different nationalities.

Location and campus: two junior school campuses (at Croissy and Bougival) plus a senior school campus also at Croissy. There are IT rooms, science labs, technology rooms, sports facilities and the school is looking at introducing cookery and textile labs.

Curriculum: British national curriculum.

Annual fees: from €13,958 to €20,110 (about £9,426 to £13,580) plus registration fee and a one-off development contribution.

Examination results: In 2006, 96% of students gained A-C grades at GCSE (49% had A-A*). All students passed the A-levels, with 70% gaining A-B grades.

Sir James Henderson School, Milan, Italy, 00 39 02 264 133 10

Perhaps the best advertisement for the Sir James Henderson School is that several alumni choose to send their own children there when they become parents. The attractions are manifold. The school offers a rigorous British education in a multicultural context. It has acquired a reputation for academic excellence, which is all the more admirable considering it has a non-selective intake policy. But, most of all, ‘it is a happy, caring environment where children can develop their own potential,’ says School Principal Trevor Church. ‘We are committed to offering young people an international perspective and an appreciation of different backgrounds to prepare them for an increasingly global world. Respect of beliefs and tolerance are important to us.’

The students learn this values as much from one another as from the school. ‘It comes from rubbing shoulders on a day to day basis with people from all over the world,’ says Mr Church. ‘It is the hidden curriculum, which is happening in the corridors and around the lunch tables.’

Unsurprisingly, Sir James Henderson is well oversubscribed, with places filling particularly quickly in the lower school.

School type: co-ed day school.

Age groups: 3-19.

Admission: open intake, but the school will interview prospective students (or their parents for nursery entrants) to assess English proficiency and, where appropriate, mathematics. Priority is given to English mother tongue students.

Enrolment: 780.

Location and campus: in north-eastern Milan. The building has two libraries, science labs, a computer room, music practice rooms, outdoor play and sports areas and a gym (as well as an agreement to use the pool and athletics tracks of a nearby sports centre).

Curriculum: British national curriculum. From 2008, the school will offer the IB, which Principal Trevor Church feels will be ‘a more rigorous and demanding educational experience.’

Annual fees: from €6810 (£4,600) for nursery to €12,535 (£8,465) for Year 13, plus registration, enrolment and school development fees.

Examination results: In 2006, 96% of the students gained A-C grades (60% gained A-A*). 76% gained A-B grades at A-level.

Berlin British School, Berlin, Germany, 00 49 30 304 2205

Berlin’s first international school opened doors 13 years ago, and quickly became a centre of academic excellence. It has consistently delivered an IB pass rate of 100%, and last year one of the students got the near-unattainable score of 45/45—a feat only achieved by 0.28 of IB candidates worldwide. The secret to this outstanding result is a combination of small class sizes, rigorous teaching, good pastoral care and plenty of extra-curricular stimuli.

‘We have small classes with differentiated teaching,’ says head Susanne Owens-Hughes. But most of all, she adds, ‘we create a very warm school atmosphere so children can learn in a happy environment.’

Students are encouraged from early years to develop self-esteem and an independent approach to studying. At the same time, they are closely monitored and thoroughly supported to ensure they achieve their full potential.

‘Because the lower, middle and senior school are separate, we have almost three mini schools, each with its own head, and the staff of each one knows all the students,’ says Owens-Hughes.

Exit universities include places as diverse as London’s Imperial College and Tokyo University, as well as a number of German colleges.

Type of school: co-ed day school.

Age groups: 3-18.

Admission: open intake at nursery, screening of school reports at later stages. Only students who achieve 6Cs or above at IGCSE progress to the IB.

Enrolment: about 450.

Location and campus: each school (lower, middle, and senior) has a dedicated campus in the Grunewald forest (lower and senior) and the Charlottenburg suburbs (middle school). They are equipped with specialist classrooms, IT labs, libraries and gyms.

Curriculum: British national curriculum leading to IGCSE, plus IB for the last two years.

Annual fees: from €3,400 to €13,008 (£2,296 to £8,784) plus registration fees.

Examination results: 88% of students achieved A-C passes at IGCSE in 2006 (42% achieved A-A*). All school candidates passed the IB exams, with an average score of 34/45 (against an worldwide average of 29.89).

International School of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland, 00 41 22 787 2400

Schools hardly get more cosmopolitan than the International School of Geneva. Founded in 1924 to educate the children of League of Nations officials, it is the longest international school in continuous existence—and one of the most multi-cultural ones. ‘We have 136 nationalities and 86 mother tongues,’ says Director-General Dr Nicholas Tate. ‘Last year, a teacher told me that each student in his class came from a different country.’

This is perhaps the reason he says one of the school’s greatest achievements is ‘how we get children of very diverse backgrounds to work harmoniously together and learn from one another,’ says Dr Tate. ‘Graduates have an extraordinary cultural sensitivity which is the product of years in this extremely tolerant and respectful environment. One of the legacies is their ability to deal with different people and sensitive situations.’

Another legacy, however, is an extremely solid academic preparation. ‘Students get a lot of formal teaching but also informal learning,’ says Dr Tate. ‘We encourage them to be independent learners. They learn to organise their own work and can cope well at university. They have far fewer problems than children who have been spoon-fed.’

This translates into good exam results that open the doors to top universities—five International School graduates, for example, will attend King’s College in Cambridge this autumn.

Age groups: 3-18.

Admission: open intake, but the school will consider language proficiency, school reports, level of maturity and goals of each candidate.

Enrolment: 3900 from 136 nationalities.

Location and campus: three campuses, one (La Grande Boissière) close to the city centre, one (Campus des Nations) close to the Palais des Nations, and a third (La Châtaigneraie) in a village out of town. Each has libraries, multimedia and sports facilities.

Curriculum: IGCSE or Diplôme National du Brevet followed by International Baccalaureate or Maturité Suisse.

Annual fees: from CHF14,760 to CHF25,075 (about £6,016 to £10,221)) plus registration fee.

Examination results: In 2006, 86% of the students gained A-C grades at IGSCE level. Some 88.3% passed the IB (against a world average of 80.4%).

UWC Lester B. Pearson College, Victoria, Canada, 00 1 250 391 2411

‘Imagine having the opportunity to search the world for students of exceptional promise, each of whom has the potential to make a positive difference in the world. Imagine inviting such an extraordinary group of young people to live and learn and grow together for two years. And imagine that with the encouragement of an exceptional faculty and staff, they come to understand and bring to life what it means to pursue the mission of ‘making education a force to unite people, nations and cultures or peace and a sustainable future.’ At Pearson College, that is exactly what we do,’ says College Director David B. Hawley.

Pearson is one of twelve schools that form the United World College group, a global educational movement—once presided by Lord Mountbatten and HRH the Prince of Wales—which is modelled on the ideas of Gordonstoun founder Kurt Hahn and promotes international understanding. But the school is as steeped in academic excellence as it is in multicultural education. Graduates go on to top American and British universities, including Oxford, MIT, Harvard and McGill University, and many pursue academic careers or choose to work in international organisations such the UN, FAO and Unicef.

Type: co-ed boarding school.

Age groups: 16-19.

Admission: selective. Applicants have to pass a two-tier process testing both academic and non-academic skills. Applications and interviews are handled by national UWC committees in the applicant’s country of residence.

Enrolment: 200 students from 88 countries.

Location and campus: in an old growth forest on Canada’s West Coast, 29 km from Victoria, BC. The campus has Physics and Chemistry labs, a seafront Environmental Systems lab, an astronomical observatory, a seafront art centre complete with ceramics and visual art studios, state of the art language rooms, and video editing and web design studios, as well as a 25m swimming pool, outdoor tennis and volleyball courts and a football pitch.

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate.

Annual fees: full scholarship (worth about £14,000) for every student, covering tuition, room and board (small wonder the school is oversubscribed).

Examination results: in 2006, students earned an average of 37 points (out of a possible 45) on the IB, against a world average of 29.89.

Other schools in the group: UWC Atlantic in Wales, Red Cross Nordic UWC in Norway, UWC Adriatic in Italy, UWC USA in New Mexico, UWC South East Asia in Singapore (ages 3-19), UWC Waterford KaMhlaba in South Africa, Li Po Chun UWC in Hong Kong, Mahindra UWC in India, UWC of Costa Rica, UWC Mostar in Bosnia Herzegovina, Simon Bolivar UWC of Agriculture in Venezuela.

Harrow International School Beijing, Beijing, China, 00 86 10 6444 8900

Over the last three years, Beijing made a very rapid transition from having virtually no international schools to having a vast array to choose from. Among them is Harrow, the Chinese outpost of the London boarding school. Head Matthew Farthing, who went to Beijing via Harrow’s other international school in Bangkok, says that ‘a good school will work wherever it is, and Harrow certainly is a good school.’ At first glance, Beijing and London appear to belong to different planets, and not only because of their geographical location: while the original Harrow is a boarding school for boys, Beijing is a co-ed day school. But Mr Farthing says there are strong links between the Beijing campus and the London one, both in practical ways—recently, a group of London students went to Beijing for work experience—and in more subtle ones. ‘The Beijing school, like the Bangkok one, definitely evokes the ethos of the school in London,’ says Mr Farthing. ‘It is quite difficult to put your finger on what it is but it is definitely there, even though the schools are so different.’ Both schools aim to provide traditional values for a modern world, which, explains Mr Farthing, means they ‘put quite a lot of stock on courtesy, politeness, manners and uniform.’ Beyond that, however, the overarching aim of Harrow Beijing is to ‘bring out [students’] talents wherever they are. It is about developing a ‘go for it attitude, determination, understanding of leadership, your place in the team and responsibilities.’ So while the school privileges ‘being academic,’ Mr Farthing and his ‘incredible staff’ also work hard on offering extra curricular activities (the school is very strong on music). ‘I hope by the time the students leave the school, they’ll have a genuine pleasure in some aspect of their studies,’ Mr Farthing says. ‘It is very important to have a passion.’

Type of school: co-ed day school.

Age groups: 11-19.

Admission: the school has yet to reach capacity so at this stage it is not selective. All prospective students are tested and ‘if we feel we can make a success of the child, we’ll take him in,’ says Head Matthew Farthing.

Enrolment: about 200.

Location and campus: in a refurbished former Chinese primary school just north of the North Third Ring Road, close to the Olympic games area. It has three science labs, a fully equipped suite of music rooms, a gymnasium, a library—quite a feat, as ‘getting books into China is not easy’—and Wi-Fi throughout the building.

Curriculum: British national curriculum.

Annual fees: from 149,970 RMB to 169,530 RMB (about £9,730 to £11,000) plus registration fee.

Examination results: the school opened in August 2005, so it only has a few IGCSE and AS results available to date. ‘We have had some A* and clear A but also some E,’ says Mr Farthing.

* Country houses for sale