Banks and bankers fleeing Brexit have fuelled the rise of the financial sector but international school openings are lagging behind. You need to rocket out of the starting gate, if you’re planning a move to Frankfurt, or you’ll miss out on a place at one of the few international schools which offer an education, taught in English.
The word ‘Frankfurt’ originally meant crossing but if you choose to live in central Frankfurt am Main, you will probably live on the north bank of the river in Holzhausenviertel or attractive Westend and only cross the bridge to grab some culture or go to the latest cool restaurant in Sachsenhausen. Most of the international schools are also north of the river apart from Strothoff International School in Dreieich.
Frankfurt is relatively small (750,000 inhabitants) and traffic is manageable, so the international schools can be fairly easily reached by car, even if you live in one of the central neighbourhoods. The schools do tend to be outside expat’s favourite residential spots but, again, the size of the city means that twice daily trips to the suburbs or even to Wiesbaden (lower school campus of Frankfurt International School) are do-able.
A couple of the schools are relatively close to Metro stations but although the shuttle is swift, be prepared that you may have to walk for quarter of an hour at each end.
The international schools are low in quantity but high in quality, which is what you would expect from a German city where families expect their children to be well-taught and qualified to get on in life. Consequently, they tend to have long waiting lists but the influx expected from bankers, previously working in London, could make these a great deal longer. There is always the possibility that some of the global education groups will leap at the opportunity to supply demand but opening schools tends to take time, so don’t hold onto the horses, just start the process of signing up as soon as you get an inkling that Frankfurt is on the cards.
Fees at international schools are fairly hefty (although cheap, compared to neighbouring Switzerland) and expect to pay between 15,000 and 20,000 Euros a year, depending on the grade your child is in. Don’t be surprised if everything, apart from tuition, comes with an additional charge.
Most likely candidates
Here are the four private, independent schools that parents agree are the obvious choices in Frankfurt, all of which offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma and enrol students of all ages:
Frankfurt International School (FIS) - the largest of the international schools, on two campuses
ISF International School Frankfurt Rhein-Main - part of the Sabis global network
Metropolitan School Frankfurt - a state approved private school
Strothoff International School Frankfurt - the only all-through IB school in Frankfurt, with a kindergarten opening
The first two of these schools charge a nominal, subsidised fee (currently in the region of 4-5,000 Euros, annually) but the third is an independent private school, charging independent fees.
European School Frankfurt - teaching the same European curriculum but in five different languages
Lycée Francais Victor Hugo - teaching a French and a German curriculum
SIS Swiss International School Frankfurt - a newly opened primary, intending to grow upwards
Franconian International School - 2 hours plus south of Frankfurt, teaching mainly international students
For more information on these schools, please go to each school’s individual entry on the GSGI database or The GSGI article 'Best schools in Frankfurt considered by expats'.
The vast majority of Germans attend state schools for the excellent reasons that the educational standard is high and they’re free. Schooling starts at six and covers elementary, middle and high school. Another advantage (apart from the extra cash in your pocket), is that the schools, in particular the elementary sector, are almost all reachable on foot or by metro, if you live in central Frankfurt.
However, this system presents a practical problem for expat families with two parents at the coal-face (particularly if it is in the banking section) as they are usually only open in the mornings. Also, as they don’t operate all day, they tend not to offer any of the extra stuff that international parents are used to (sport, in particular).
Before and after-school care for primary school children is often provided by on-site school clubs (Schulhort or Kita for kindergarten children) but beware they can stop at 4 pm and always close by 6 pm (in the past often way before bankers could leave but maybe Covid will make this easier). However this can still be a serious problem for people with high-powered jobs who may not have a regular clocking-off time, even if it's only from the desk in the study.
If you do choose to go down this route, you will have to be extremely organised and that starts with turning up at the local registry office, clutching the school application form, the child’s birth certificate, its passport, proof of residency and a medical certificate.
German state education (whilst extremely good) is very different from the American or English programmes as regards grading, so if you want your child to transition easily, you will probably need to consider one of the international schools, which operates the same grades system as back at home.