Joining ICS Côte d’Azur from the United States

Jennifer Wallace
Around 20% of families join ICS Côte d’Azur from the US every year, including those of both French and American backgrounds, who are either returning to, or arriving for the first time, in the Riviera region for professional reasons. Their children have previously been in different kinds of schools: from private French schools, to international schools, to public schools.
 
With this in mind, we asked a few of our current families who had recently moved across the Atlantic for their feedback regarding the similarities and differences between the schools in the USA, and why they chose ICS Côte d’Azur to continue their children’s education.
 
What are the similarities our families see between the schools they attended in the USA and our school?
 
Many of the families we interviewed commented on the creative, inclusive and encouraging environment at our school, similar to that which they had experienced back in the US. A culture of care, where families have open communication with teachers and are encouraged to be involved with their child’s learning was also noted. They commented on the positive discipline style of our teachers, the relatively small class sizes, and the international community too. Interestingly, parents also appreciated our after-school care programme for its wide range of activities, something schools in the USA are well known for.
 
What are the main differences?
 
For parents of children who had been in private French institutions in the US, the change to a 50/50 bilingual education here at ICS was a major difference. Another parent commented that in their previous school, subjects were divided by language - i.e Maths was always taught in French, and History always in English - whereas at ICS all subjects are taught in two languages. Another parent commented that their child’s bilingual school had only one classroom per grade where students spoke both languages, compared to the system we have here with two classrooms per grade to separate French and English days.
 
Finally, a parent commented that their school in the US had a dedicated Special Education Department which set specific internal support for children, something that is currently in development at ICS Côte d’Azur, and is one of our goals for 2022-23.
 
None of the parents we interviewed had been in a school with the IB Primary Years Programme before, but all of them have found our curriculum to be engaging and inspiring for students, whilst maintaining high standards and rigour in Maths and Literacy.
 
Why choose ICS Côte d’Azur?
 
All of our families commented that the bilingual programme, with a dedicated French and English teacher, was the deciding factor when choosing the school. They really appreciated how the environment clearly distinguishes English from French, with a true 50/50 split. The multiple approach to learning at ICS combines two great styles of pedagogy: the French system known for its thoroughness andrigour, and the more anglophone system based on enthusiasm, creativity and encouragement, which develops confidence in children. All our families commented on how valuable it was to engage with both these approaches.
 
Another positive comment was our diverse, international community. Our families joining us from the US wanted their children to continue to experience different cultures, and to make friends with children from all over the world.
 
One family commented on our caring and focused attention on every child, with the smaller classes allowing an individual approach that helps student’s flourish. Another parent praised the admission’s process for being quick and clear, with Iris Gourven, our Admissions andParent Liaison Officer, always available to help and answer questions.
 
Finally, one family commented on our location, as they loved that we are surrounded by nature and that we integrate outdoor learning into the curriculum on a regular basis.
 
 
Advice for prospective parents currently based in the US
 
Our families were eager to share their experiences of moving to France, and some are happy to speak to prospective parents who may have questions about choosing ICS, so please do get in contact with us if you’d like to connect with an ambassador family.
 
Here is some further feedback they shared:
 
  • As well as native French speakers and native English speakers in the school, there are also many children who do not have either language as their mother tongue. The school has an EFL and FLE (English as a foreign language and French as a foreign language) programme to support these children. This makes it a great school for non French/English speaking children too.
  • The adjustment period in a new school can be tough for any child, but ICS has a solid integration system, much like the US. The school remains in contact with you during the first few weeks, and in the words of one parent: “When children are happy to go to school, then parents are happy too, and all the work or move related challenges become secondary.”
  • The school finishes at PY6 (Grade 5), but presentations are organised to explain options for Middle School in both the French and international system. This is very helpful for parents unfamiliar with the next steps.
  • Any family considering the school is invited to meet with Amanda Scott (Head of School) and Iris Gourven (Admissions Officer) as many times as they feel they need, to get a firm understanding of the school and assess its suitability for their children.
  • Being from the US can be very challenging from an administrative perspective. Our families encourage you to do your research when it comes to opening a bank account, choosing a phone plan or renting/buying a house or apartment. The school can put you in contact with current families who have offered to share advice, and there are helpful expat Facebook groups for the region too.

Thank you to all our ICS parents who participated in our interviews, we know your feedback will be enormously helpful for future families joining us from the US!