First published in AMS business magazine. Author: Douglas Heingartner.
In the gleaming atrium of the former Van Leer building in Amstelveen, huge windows look out onto the endless trees of the De Braak park.
“It's not just a lovely building,” says Darryll Lottering, “but a lovely building in a great location.”
Darryll is the principal of the new Amity International School Amsterdam, which is already accepting students but will open officially in January 2018. It will launch as a primary school with space for 100 students, and plans to expand to about 500 students by the start of the 2021, with grades all the way up through high school.
Amity International School Amsterdam is part of the not for profit Amity Education Group, which operates schools and universities in locations ranging from London and Singapore to New York, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi.
The Amsterdam region is becoming an increasingly popular location for international companies, which also means a growing demand for places at international schools, where the children of those new employees will be educated. Having enough of these international schools is crucial to maintaining the region’s attractive business climate, which is why local authorities and schoolboards have been working hard to open new schools and increase the capacity of the existing ones. The new Amity International School Amsterdam is helping to meet that need.
Choosing for the Amsterdam region
We've received a very warm welcome,” says Darryll. “Nothing is too much trouble. It’s really nice that whenever we pick up the phone, there's always someone who can put us in touch with somebody who can help us.”
“Everything here works by the minute, like clockwork,” he said. “And that’s a great aspect. You know exactly what's coming, and there are no unexpected surprises when it comes to establishing a school. And I am sure this applies to other industries, too.”
Another factor that attracted Amity was the overall region. “It’s a safe, stable country, with a high standard of living, and a good quality of life for families,” says Darryll. “We're close to Amsterdam, but we're also in a very good residential area, so it’s very easy for families to get to us. The close proximity to the airport is really useful as well.”
“We have the best of both worlds here,” says Darryll. “We’re twenty minutes away from the centre of Amsterdam, and we have the Amsterdam Forest close by, so we've got absolutely beautiful surroundings in a wonderful family location.”
The Van Leer building was also a major part of the attraction. Designed in 1958 by Dutch architect Marcel Breuer, the building initially served as the company headquarters for Van Leer Industrial Packaging. The new school will take full advantage of its unique architecture, using the large open spaces to create multifunctional zones, so that the students don’t spend the whole day in a single classroom. The school will also feature a multimedia centre, music room, an indoor gymnasium, and a dedicated green-screen presentation area. The gardens in the adjacent park will provide students with ample opportunities for inquiry-based learning in a natural setting, in a safe and green environment.
International learning in Amsterdam and beyond
The school has applied for PYP candidacy status with the International Baccalaureate Organisation, which helps ensure consistency if a student relocates to another school. There is also a lot of space within the IB programme to develop a unique curriculum. “We’re trying to educate our children to be global citizens, who can integrate anywhere in the world,” says Darryll. “To support this, we’re bringing in staff from around the globe, with great international experience and a wide variety of languages.”
The school’s curriculum is focused on creative problem-solving. “Concepts will always remain,” says Darryll, “but knowledge will change, so we focus more on how to acquire information, and how to apply it in different contexts.”
The curriculum is also designed to fully incorporate the local culture and community. “It's not about Amity international coming to Amsterdam and being in our own bubble,” says Darryll. “We will integrate into the community, and include as much Dutch culture in our international curriculum as possible, so that it’s a truly a global education.”
“And we would also like the residents to integrate with us,” he says, “by connecting with the local community and expertise, and by inviting them into our school to share their knowledge. We want our school to be a hub of the community, and we will have our doors open to them.”
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