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Q+A: St. John's International School, Waterloo, Belgium

Q+A: St. John's International School, Waterloo, Belgium

St. John's International School in Waterloo, Belgium, provides an English-language education based on Christian values. Here the school answers our questions and takes Winter's readers on a guided tour...

What happens when parents visit the school?

When prospective parents visit the school, they start with a meeting with our admissions team in order for us to get to know the children’s preferences, personalities and needs. We then move to a tour of the school, where parents can go into classrooms to speak to teachers and students, and to observe how the classes are taught. Normally they will also meet the section principal, so they can ask any questions they might have. A normal visit takes about two hours, and families are welcome to come back for a second visit or have their child(ren) spend half a day at school to see how they like it.

We encourage parental engagement, and there are many opportunities for moms and dads to get involved, whether in the library, in the arts or sports programs or elsewhere.

How old is the school?

St. John’s was founded in September 1964. Between 1971 and 1973 the facilities were extended to include a High School, and in 1979 the school introduced the International Baccalaureate (IB) as one of the early adopters of this curriculum. In 1986 the school restructured itself by creating a separate Middle School, along with the Elementary and High Schools, an educational structure which has remained with us until today.

What accreditations do you have?

We are accredited by the Council for International Schools (CIS), Middle States Association (MSA) and the International Baccalaureate Organization (for our PYP and IB Programs).

Why should I send my child to your school?

St. John’s is a wonderfully unique educational institution, which combines the traditional Christian values of companionship, integrity and respect with the rigours of a 21st century international education. Our goal is for each child to reach his or her personal potential, whether academically, or in the arts, sports or other areas. We believe that each child can excel at his or her own level when in a comfortable and supportive environment.

How have your pupils performed in examinations recently?

We are, once again, extremely proud of our Grade 12 students who have achieved impressive IB Diploma results, as follows:

A total of 65 students completed the full IB Diploma in 2016, and gained a pass rate of 94%, with an average score of 33. (The average international pass rate is 78.5%, and the global average score this year was 30.) Our top scorer obtained 43 points. An impressive 74% of students obtained a score of 30 points or more, 37% scored 36 points or more (compared with a world IB average of around 22%) and 14% scored 40 points or higher (compared to a world average of about 6%). Of the candidates, 34% pursued a bilingual diploma and 100% of students achieved it.

Can you give me a breakdown of where your students come from? (nationality)

In total we have over 50 nationalities, with the largest groups coming from Belgium (17%), USA (16%), France (7%), UK (6%), Norway (6%), Republic of Korea (4%) and Italy (4%).

What facilities do you offer?

St. John’s offers extensive facilities and programs for sports and the arts. The school has a reputation not only for producing high quality plays and concerts, but also for the quality of its sports teams.

What curriculum do you follow?

We follow a comprehensive curriculum that is varied to cater to all students’ needs, focusing primarily on the International Baccalaureate program: Diploma Program (IBDP), Middle Years Program (MYP) and Primary Years Program (PYP).

What is your approach to languages in the school?

We provide fully bilingual English-French programs from Pre-Kindergarten through grade 4 (three to ten years of age), and multiple levels of French in all grades. There is also the option of doing the bilingual IB diploma, and many other languages are available.

How are pupils with English as an additional language supported?

We have dedicated English as an Additional Language (EAL) teachers throughout the school, who help new students attain a level of English where they can follow mainstream classes.

What additional help do you provide for children with learning difficulties?

We have a through-school Support Services department which supports students with learning needs. The Learning Support program is open to all St. John’s students who have learning differences or difficulties, or who are failing to achieve their full potential in their school work. Programs typically focus on providing support in the core academic areas, and in organizational skills, as we work together towards the goal of successful, rewarding academic learning. Teaching is provided either in small groups or as in-class support as appropriate.

What is the background of your teaching staff?

In total we have 20 nationalities represented by our teaching staff, with 24% from US, 24% from Belgium and 23% from UK.

How can parents get involved?

We encourage parental engagement at all levels and have a very tight-knit and supportive parent community. New parents are encouraged to participate in the many activities of the Parent Teacher Program, the Visual and Performing Arts Support Program and the Athletic Booster Program. 

How important is music and the arts in your school?

We have some of the best and most extensive arts facilities and programs in Europe, and are renowned for the high quality of our visual and performing arts events and performances. We have created an environment that encourages our students to be creative and passionate about what they do. We believe that students who develop sensitivity and an appreciation of the visual and performing arts, grow into well-rounded individuals.

 A full schedule of exhibitions by visiting artists and students in the school gallery, student theatrical productions, artistic performances and musical concerts, along with organized cultural trips, supplement and enrich the many programs. 

What musical instruments can children learn at your school?

Students can learn almost any instrument at school, as we have music teachers who are trained to teach anything from the piano to the guitar, the cello to the flute, the drums to the trumpet and so on.

What co-curricular activities do you offer?

Co-curricular programs are a vital part of the St. John’s educational experience. Our arts and athletics activities are consistently regarded as being among the finest in Europe. All St. John's students have the opportunity to develop their creative abilities in the art studio, as well as in our superb Performing Arts Center, which includes a 400-seat theatre and reception area, dance studio, choir, orchestra, music and practice rooms.

For budding athletes, the St. John’s Lions sports teams involve students from 6th grade in more than twelve sports, with the high school teams consistently well-placed in the International School Sports Tournaments (ISSTs), held at the end of each season. 

There are further opportunities for students to take part in Model United Nations (MUN), Model NATO, the International Duke of Edinburgh Awards program, maths and science competitions, economics programs, clubs, field-trips and so much more. In this way, our students learn to engage, grow, help and serve others.

How do most children travel to and from school?

Walking - Many St. John's families live in the neighborhood near school and so walk to school. Sidewalks and cross-walks in front of school allow for this to be a safe and healthy way to get to school. Each morning and afternoon, our maintenance team, staff and members of the administration are out to help our students get to school safely, by managing the cross-walks and the entry-ways into school.

Cycling - Since about 70% of St. John's families live in or near Waterloo, many High School students choose to cycle to school. The streets in Waterloo have bike lanes and many of the roads around school are quiet, with little in the way of traffic. St. John's has significantly increased the number of cycle racks on campus, to encourage more students to come by bike.

By car - St. John's has an effective one-way "drop off" route on campus in the mornings, which allows for quick, safe and easy drop-off of our students of all ages. They can be dropped off right at the entrance door, from where they will go directly into the hallway to their classrooms. 

Is there a school bus service?

We have an efficient and extensive school bus system, which services a wide area around Waterloo, including the center of Brussels, and many towns in the larger Waterloo region. The service includes pick-up from your front door wherever possible, and we aim to find the most direct and quick route so that the students are on the bus for the shortest amount of time possible. Our High Schoolers serve as bus monitors to ensure the rules are followed by all students on the bus, and to help younger students when needed. 

Do you have a cafeteria?

We have a cafeteria which is run by Sodexo. It provides a large variety of healthy options for students, including a salad bar, freshly made sandwiches, fresh fruit salads and several hot-meal options, all made on site by a team of five professionals.

Each school section has its own lunch time, and payment is made via the student card (for Middle and High School students). Cash is not used in the cafeteria.

Students also have the option of bringing in their lunch from home.

All images: St. John's International School

To view the Winter's profile for St. John's International School, please go to this link. 

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