Q+A: The English International School, Moscow South-West
The English International School, Moscow South-West, is located in the prestigious residential and diplomatic area near the Leninsky Prospekt, and provides an English National Curriculum education, adapted to meet the needs of the international community. Here the school answers our questions and gives Winter’s readers a guided tour…
What happens when parents visit the school?
Once the security checks have been completed, families are asked to wait in the front hall – which gives them a wonderful perspective on the school as children and staff walk past. The Principal collects the visitors from the waiting area and takes them to his office where there is a conversation focused on the child(ren).
Usually parents are asked what it is that they are looking for in a school. Parents will also be asked if their child has any particular needs that the school should be aware of. If Moscow South-West can provide for the child’s needs, the conversation proceeds along the lines of an introduction to what the school can do and the Principal answers questions parents have about the school, and in particular about their child’s potential class. If it seems that the school cannot meet the needs of the child, the Principal is very clear about the concerns he has and will, where possible, recommend alternatives.
Families are then taken for a tour of the school with particular emphasis on what that child will experience. Visits to classrooms and specialist facilities such as the canteen and hall are included before returning to the Principal’s office to answer any final questions and outline the ‘next steps’. During the visit families will have the opportunity to see and interact with students and staff – and for those who want to discover more, it is possible to have a ‘taster’ morning or day where children (and depending on their age, their parents too) can join a class to see what the school is really like.
How old is the school?
Moscow South-West opened its doors for the first time on 1 September 2014. On that day there were just 26 students. Despite our school being a brand new campus, English International Schools has been in Moscow since 2006, so the group and administration has much experience of providing a first-class education in Moscow.
What accreditations do you have?
As a new school, Moscow South-West is only just starting on the Accreditation journey. The school is fully licensed by the local authorities. In 2014 the school became a member of COBIS (Council of British International Schools) and in 2016 Moscow South-West was accepted into membership of CIS (Council of International Schools), thus making it a part of the premier worldwide organisation of international schools.
The next stage is to work towards Accreditation – which means that the school is now aligning itself with international standards for subsequent external evaluation by experienced CIS Accreditation Teams. The present Principal has been involved in CIS Accreditation teams for over 15 years and since 2008 has been an Evaluation Team Chair on four different continents.
Why should I send my child to your school?
What makes Moscow South-West special is the atmosphere. Parents regularly tell us that their children feel at home in the school and that it is in many ways just like a large family. As the school grows we intend to keep this special quality. Relationships between home and school are very good, and we often talk about being part of a community where everyone is involved in making the school a happy and purposeful place.
Our Vision Statement sets everything out very clearly: To be a family friendly school with high aspirations where every individual matters. We ask all members of the community to ‘buy into’ this approach so that when we need to make tough decisions our vision and our concern for the individual will always be of paramount concern.
How have you adapted the curriculum to suit your location/country?
Russian is taught at all ages, either as a first language or a second language. We also celebrate Russian festivals and ensure our curriculum takes note of where we are. Recent visits have included the Great Patriotic War Museum and the Space Museum so that our students, whatever their nationality, learn about, and appreciate, the host country.
What is your teaching philosophy?
Every child can do something and to ensure that they perform to the best of their ability we aim to be positive in all that we do. Teachers praise, where praise is due, and help to accentuate the successes of those for whom academic success is a struggle.
We also adopt an "it’s all right to make a mistake" approach since we all know that from mistakes great lessons can be learned. This is further developed by encouraging children to ask questions and try to work out their own answers. So, to use a very simple example, in answer to the question “What does 2 and 2 make ?” the teacher is more likely to respond “Well here are two pencils and here are another two – you tell me”.
What is the background of your teaching staff?
All our expat teachers are qualified and experienced for the ages they are teaching. Our current staff all have prior overseas experience and are usually first-language English speakers. Our local staff are all appropriately qualified and speak English. Teachers are chosen for their passion for what they do – and before appointment our Safer Recruitment Policy ensures that written references and background checks (including police checks) are followed up in line with the best international practices.
How can you ensure continuity if my child moves between countries?
We know that when children start at Moscow South-West some will be here for many years and some for only a few months. Therefore we have to ensure our curriculum is portable and that we can support children who move country.
In our short existence every child who has moved to another country has been accepted into their first-choice school. We help this process by providing full and detailed recommendations to future schools, but more importantly by basing our own curriculum on the National Curriculum of England it means that receiving schools know what to expect. In addition to all this, because the staff have worked in many different countries, we are often able to provide additional support to parents when they are relocating.
What is your homework policy?
Our Homework Policy is probably the most divisive policy we have because half the parents love it and half the parents hate it. This is related to cultural norms. So, as a school our policy is very clear about how much homework each child is given each night and what the purpose of homework is. We try to avoid homework becoming a burden for anyone involved, so we set out the responsibilities we expect of students, staff and parents, so everyone is clear about their role in the completion of homework.
How do you support pupils who are struggling, and how do you challenge the more able?
The key to this is, of course, differentiation. Our teachers and teacher assistants are encouraged and empowered to make decisions which ensure children are not bored but are encouraged to support children who need support or need challenging.
This can be in a variety of ways including individual support in class or by providing additional specific projects for a particular child. Because we have a very generous staff/student ratio it is possible to give additional attention to children who need it. We also involve parents by informing them of what we are doing, so that the partnership between home and school is clearly maintained.
How can parents get involved?
All parents are asked to support their children by coming to parents’ meetings, attending events, particularly if their own child is involved, and ensuring their children are prepared for school each day. Other opportunities to get involved include joining other parents who stop for a cup of tea or coffee when dropping off their children in the morning. For those parents who want to give more we encourage them to volunteer by hearing reading, helping in the library, going on trips and so on. We also have a developing PTA which always needs support in helping at our two main celebratory events each year. We are a listening school and so other ideas from keen parents are welcome.
What opportunities exist for parents to speak to their child's teachers should they have any worries or concerns?
We encourage parents to raise concerns earlier rather than later. Parents who wish to speak to their child’s teacher can arrange an appointment at an agreed time via the office or using the teacher’s school email address. Provided a mutually convenient time can be found, parents are welcome to speak to their child’s teacher throughout the year. Teachers will contact the parents in the same way to arrange a meeting if they have concerns. The Principal is readily available to meet with parents if they need to see him.
How important is music and the arts in your school?
We try to value everything we do in school (and also everything our students do out of school) so all subjects and extra-curricular activities are valued. Regular changing displays of children’s art and other work can be found throughout the school, and in assemblies students often have the opportunity to play a musical instrument before the school. Of course, music and art are part of the curriculum at all ages but we also have activities involving dance and drama and other ‘arts’. The point is that we try to show that all these activities, whether at school or home, are valued and to try different things is part of the process of growing-up.
Do you have an annual production?
Yes – despite being a small school we look to have opportunities for children to perform in front of an audience regularly. There are monthly coffee morning/assemblies when different groups perform to those parents who have joined us. We have a big production once a year and other events such as a talent show.
How do most children travel to and from school?
A lot of children travel by school bus (see below), many come with their parents by car and an increasing number walk to school (some even use bicycles or scooters when the weather is fine).
Is there a school bus service?
Yes, our buses are all equipped with seat belts and on each bus one of our staff (usually a Teacher Assistant) as Bus Monitor takes responsibility for the children. It is almost a bespoke service in that children are taken as close to their front door as possible. Parents have the contact mobile number of the Bus Monitor so that if there are any problems or delays, these can be communicated quickly. Our bus routes are very flexible and are determined by the users so that no journey is longer than necessary. We cover most of Central, West and South Moscow.
Do you have a cafeteria?
Yes – and each day our students are served two snacks (morning and afternoon) and a hot lunch. All students have school lunch and if you visit at a mealtime, you will see that staff eat and chat with the children too, thus making more of the family atmosphere of the school.
All images: The English International School, Moscow South-West
To view EIS Moscow South-West's profile on Winter's, please go to this link.