International Schools and coping with change

International Schools and coping with change

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An international school for girls and boys aged 3-18, The British School in The Netherlands is a thriving community of 80+ nationalities. The BSN's blend of traditional British values, educational rigour, and caring and committed staff provides an environment for students to prepare for a happy and successful life, no matter the pursuit.

If one thing in life is consistent, it is that things will change. This is certainly well understood within the expat community, a group of people for whom change - both big and small - is a regular part of life.

With change comes excitement: continuing your career abroad, starting a new school and meeting new people. However, the excitement usually comes coupled with trepidation, a bit of anxiety and of course, sadness for the things you are leaving behind. This mix of emotions that comes with change is felt acutely in the expat community.

Feeling accepted at your new school

If you were ever the new kid at school, you probably remember the nerves you felt on your first day. No matter whether you have moved from the other side of the world or are starting at a new school in your hometown, being new is anxiety-inducing for many students.

One important way international schools help all students feel welcome is by celebrating the differences and unique cultures brought together in our international communities. This means allowing opportunities to share backgrounds, viewpoints, languages and traditions which are built into the learning experience at school.

For those moving from abroad, helping a student feel accepted and at home in their new school is a powerful first step towards helping them feel at home in their new country.

Sharing experiences and information

Transition is an important part of everyone’s school experience. Growing from one year group to another, and eventually making the transition from junior to senior school, and then on to university or the workforce; these are experiences that all students share. The sharing of experience and information is the most effective way to prepare students for these upcoming transitions.

From Year 12 drama students putting on performances for Year 6 students on “what senior school is really like” to “buddy classes” between junior school and foundations students, work experience programmes and more, older students and professionals act as positive role models.

Giving students the opportunity to learn from one another and ask questions about what comes next helps to replace nervousness with excitement for the future.

A strong international community

This past September, we asked parents of new students what the most important factors for them were when choosing a new school. Many noted that alongside excellent academic and exam results, they looked for a multicultural school that embraced diversity, and a welcoming, warm environment to help them and their children feel like part of the community.

Through offering a wide provision of study paths, co-curricular activities, sport and club opportunities, students facing transitions can feel welcome as part of a diverse study body and find others who share their personal interests.

Having a strong Family Association who organise an impressive range of social activities aimed at bringing families together to share information and build a support system around the school is also important for families just starting out in a new place.

An international school can be at the heart of a family in transition’s experience in a new country, so ensuring a strong community grows within and beyond the school is an important part of our mission.

Induction programme for staff

As teachers and staff members within international schools are also often facing changes of their own, it is equally important to help new staff build a community and support their transition to a new job and country.

A community built on shared experiences makes a strong impact towards feeling at home, overcoming the challenges associated with change and making the most of new opportunities professionally and personally. A strong induction programme where new staff are introduced to one another and to The Hague and the Netherlands can be revolutionary.

Coping with transition is personal growth

Facing periods of change never stops. However, transition is an opportunity to grow, be it personally, professionally or emotionally. A supportive, welcoming community is the most important thing an international school can offer to students, staff and families facing all sorts of change.

Good role models, open communication and the knowledge that if you need it, help will be there are at the heart of this support. After all, growing can be scary, but knowing you are not alone is the best way to make it exciting as well.

The British School in The Netherlands offers a British and international curriculum, with General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) examinations and four pathways from the age of 16 - A Levels, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, the International Baccalaureate Career Programme and BTEC qualifications. Their students go on to study in universities all over the world.

Claire McGuire


Claire McGuire

Communications, content creation and cultural heritage professional based in the Netherlands. I currently work as the Social Media Specialist at the British School in the Netherlands, creating compelling content and...

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