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Moving to Berlin soon, looking for school advice

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hey all,

 

First of all thanks for everyone who has contributed to the resource that this site is, I’ve read and learned a great deal already by looking through the archives.

 

My situation is as follows, I am moving from New York City. I have a job in Berlin, moving to a local branch of the international company I work for. I have two sons, 6 and 8 years old. We learned about the need to move too late to put in applications for the international schools like JFK and Nelson Mandela. My understanding is that we will not be able to secure a place since it is now July and we’d be moving in September.

Our intention is to move to Berlin for a longer period, multiple years, and so we want our boys to learn German. Therefore we are thinking about enrolling them in local German public schools. Our thinking is to move into a temporary apartment, find a school for them and then find a place to live based on the school location. The boys speak no German currently so would need to learn from scratch.

 

Does anyone have experience of navigating the Berlin public school system with English speaking children who are not starting at the beginning or in Kita? Especially for those who do not speak German already? What is the process for finding a school like? I am actually visiting Berlin for a few days now and will attempt to spend Monday and Tuesday speaking to the local authorities in an attempt to gather further information. We are thinking we would like to live in or around Prenzlauerberg. I’d like to be somewhere where there are other children and families for my sons to make friends with. Any advice or further questions are welcome. Thanks!

 

- Matt

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In case this comes up on search engine results for people looking for primary school advice moving to Berlin, I'll add here what I've learned.

 

When moving with children who do not speak German it's necessary to first register the kids in a 'Wilkommenskurse' or 'Welcome course'. The first step is to take the children to the Schulamt in the district in which you have your housing registration (Anmeldung). Schools are first of all assigned based on your address, but it's possible to apply for a change afterward.

 

I found this page which has a list of schools by address for Pankow. Generally speaking the berlin.de website is pretty helpful.

 

https://www.berlin.de/ba-pankow/politik-und-verwaltung/aemter/schul-und-sportamt/schule/artikel.382986.php

 

I went to the Schulamt Pankow and spoke to the people there. They said even if it is a temporary residence, register there and bring the children to the Schulamt. They will have their German evaluated in order to determine class placement. They will then place them in a Wilkommenskurse in a local school. This can last *up to* a year but is based on language competency. If the children learn quickly they may move on sooner. Then they will be moved to a regular class which may or may not be in the same school, based on availability. My understanding is that even in the districts with lots of kids, like Prenzlauerberg it is not impossible to find primary (Grundschule) spaces. It's worth noting that the competition for Kita (daycare for young kids) is super intense though. I went with a non-German speaking American friend to help translate and he learned that there was a 200+ long waiting list for Kita spaces in Prenzlauerberg.

 

Feel free to reply here if you have further questions, this is pretty much the extent of what I've learned, hopefully it's helpful to others.

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Hi Matt.  Not sure if you've seen the threads elsewhere on the site specifically about English-(only)speaking children in German primary schools, but there's a wealth of info in the  "Family Life" and "Education" forums. It sounds like you have gotten off to a good start re: Berlin-specific school info (re: registration, provision, etc.), but you might want to check out the others when it comes to stuff that folks wish they had known in general, about German school culture and parent-teacher interactions, and so on.  

 

Welcome (soon) to Germany, and best of luck to you and your family.

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There are a few international schools to choose from other than the two you mentioned. Check this link: http://www.businesslocationcenter.de/en/WB/E/iii/1//seite0.jsp

 

Also, as the laws here are very specific about education for children under 18, and I am sure these schools have had situations where people move in to the area on non standard times (e.g. the middle of winter), they really should be able to find space for your two boys. 

 

As they more than likely are mono-lingual, I would strongly recommend against you placing them in a standard grundschule, if at all possible. Yes, we have a fair number of refugee and non-german families living here, so don't be too worried about them not finding a class which is for integration purposes, so do not be too concerned, however I have lived here 9 years and while I can get by, my German is far from perfect and it is not an easy language for me. Granted, kids tend to be far better at picking up languages (and swear words, my son picks them up like dirt on the play-ground from the kids in his school), but expect some rather unhappy boys for a while as they try to fit in to a totally new world. 

 

Good luck! 

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