Reykjavik, Iceland Report of what it's like to live there - 03/31/14
Personal Experiences from Reykjavik, Iceland
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
2. During what years were you affiliated with this school?
3. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
4. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
It was the only option.
Admissions & Welcome:
1. Are the admissions and placement procedures clearly stated to prospective families, either on the school website or through other means of communication?
The kids are all in multi-grade classrooms so there aren't many issues with placement.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
No issues here.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. Describe the general climate of the grade level that you teach or your child attends:
The teachers are nice and try hard but the school is not up to the standards that DOS personnel expect from an International School. It's highly unlikely that any of the teachers currently teaching my child could be hired by another international school for work. This school does not recruit teachers the way other international schools do. Instead of casting a wide net and finding the most highly qualified professionals they can find, they hire locally, teachers who already have residency permits to live in Iceland. They are basically taking the easy way out, as by this method they don't have to go through the process to get new hires work permits.
You should know upfront if you are going to consider putting your child in this school that it is very, very different from what you might be used to. Last year the school had hired a "real teacher" from the U.S., and many of us were hoping to move our kids into his class, but unfortunately he was only with the school for one year before moving on to greener pastures.
2. For the following attributes, down to the next blank box, grade your experience at the school on a scale of A (excellent) to F (unacceptable/terrible) and provide comments:<br><br>Overall fair and equitable treatment of all students and families:
No issues here.
3. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
The parent-teacher conferences are only scheduled for 20 minutes and the kids are supposed to attend - it really isn't enough time to cover everything. We have asked several times for longer meetings (since the kids have the entire day off from school, this shouldn't be hard to do) but they just told us that if we need more time, we should schedule a meeting later.
4. Services for gifted students who need academic challenge and students with learning difficulties:
This school is NOT suited for children who have special needs whatsoever despite what they may say. They have great difficulty differentiating instruction among kids with differing ability levels.
5. Availability and variety of after-school activities for various ages:
They have some but they are pricey. You are basically paying one of the teachers to hang out with the kids and share one of their hobbies with them.
6. Maintenance of appropriately high standards for all students:
This school is not accredited and it's hard to tell where our children will stand once they move on to another school. This is an area of concern.
7. Homework assigned (quality, quantity):
The homework is all over the place - my child has 5 different people assigning her homework, and they don't communicate with each other. It's very hard to figure out what they want.
8. Administration-parent communication:
So-so. The big thing to know about this school is that they are not in any way receptive to parent concerns. They are currently employing a bunch of marginally qualified teachers on a part-time basis to teach our kids. One person teaches science, one teaches math, one teaches English, etc. They say that this is so that each person can teach what he or she feels most comfortable teaching but a qualified teacher should be able to teach ALL basic elementary subjects to young kids. Our child's "homeroom" teacher only works 4 days per week. Try getting away with that at another international school!
9. Teacher-student communication:
Again, so-so. I have no idea who some of my child's teachers are. I could run into them on the street and not recognize them. The major ones, English, Math, etc, are known to me but it is also clear that they do not communicate with each other about how my child is doing.
10. Academics, answer the following questions "yes" or "no" with an explanation if appropriate:<br><br>Are there any classes or subjects where students are not appropriately challenged?
I think all of them. But with this school not being accredited, it's really hard to tell for sure.
11. Does your child receive any special-needs assistance or instruction at this school? If yes, what types? Who provides services and where:
No. They hired a special ed support teacher last year but as far as we can tell, this is her first paid job. Again, they are not interested in hiring the best possible teachers for the kids - that's pretty clear.
12. Does the school offer a wide variety of elective or non-core classes such as art, music, and drama?
13. Please describe any classes or programs that you believe are missing:
It's a really small school. It's hard to expect them to offer a wife array of classes for just 20-some kids. That's the reality.
14. Are there academic requirements such as trips or other activities that cost money in addition to school fees?
15. Please describe any problem areas or challenges in social interaction at the school:
The school is divided between a larger bilingual group and the English class kids. The amount of energy and effort being exerted to develop and grow the English classes has dimished considerably over the years.
Academics & Resources:
1. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
The library is very small - with only 20 or so students in the "English stream" of the school; it's hard to expect much from them in this regard.
2. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
3. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
The school faclities are nice and it has a large indoor gym and pool. The students swim once per week.
4. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
The class sizes are small, which sounds great on the surface, but in reality, the classes end up getting combined with other classes, moving rooms, and it's all a bit disorganized.
5. Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available in upper grades? If this is an IB school, is the full diploma required of all students?
6. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
It fluctuates greatly.
7. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
The school is very small and there are no electives. the school only goes to grade 7, though.
8. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
For the most part, yes.
9. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
No, and again, there are concerns about this school's ability to appropriately differentiate instruction, so parent's of gifted kids, be forewarned!
10. What extra-curricular activities (including sports) are available at this school? Have your children participated in these activities? What activities do you feel are missing at the school?
Well, it offers some like chess, computer, homework help, science club, but they all cost extra.
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
This is an issue as well. The school is a "school within a school" and there are some issues with our kids getting along appropriately with the Icelandic children. The "F" word is quite freely used here and our kids are exposed to language that we are not used to hearing at such a young age. It's not a good arrangement.
2. Are there are any problems with exclusionary behavior, cliques, or bullying at this school? Please describe any problems your children may have experienced in this area.
There have been some incidents of the Icelandic kids giving our kids a hard time.
1. What is the greatest strength of this school?
I'm sorry, I really have nothing to say here.
2. Greatest challenge?
It's not meeting the standard of what one would expect for an International School.
3. Would you choose this school again? Why?
NO. NO. NO!