The shiny onion domes send out a clear message, Moscow is definitely top dog when it comes to Russian cities. Unsurprisingly, the international schools are growing in size (as well as numbers) and now often operate on several campuses. There are also numerous kindergartens, catering to expats.
The political power of the Kremlin and its inhabitants is obvious but it is also the commercial heart of the country and where most expats are sent for business as well as diplomatic reasons. It is also, probably, the only city in the world where the public transport system is sighed over by all who have seen it and even those who have only looked at the pictures – ahhh the Metro!
On the downside, it is bitterly cold in the winter, as invaders have discovered to their cost, and even snow loses its glamour after weeks of below freezing temperatures. All in all, the school run can be a bundled up endurance test, often more or less in the dark.
Increasingly, your choice of school will depend on where you live, as children are spending more and more time commuting and the traffic situation has become a major problem. You must ask yourself how long you wish your child to spend in a car, stuck in traffic jams, when you consider where you are going to live, as the traffic in Moscow is truly terrible.
Multiple lanes of traffic can become so encamped, with no exit or end in sight, that it is not unusual to see trucks and cars taking to the pavements. This leads to alarmed pedestrians scuttling out of the way or leaping for safety as an irregular new traffic lane develops. The GSGI editor once saw traffic sit so long, in downtown Moscow, that an entire tourist coach had time to send an emissary into a traffic island kiosk to procure beer for all the passengers.
In order to try and keep the travel misery to a minimum, you could consider finding housing and schooling in the same neighbourhood. For instance, Anglo-American School (AAS) is only a few minutes’ walk from the Pokrovsky Hills compound. There are several campuses of the British International School (BIS) so you should bear this in mind and the English International School (EIS) is easily reachable by Metro. School buses are provided by all the schools but they come at an extra cost. In fact, you are strongly advised to visit the schools to see which suits you better before selecting where you live. It would also be a very good idea to do dummy school runs during weekdays, at pick up and drop off times, to test how long it takes to get to the school. You don’t want your child coming home after two hours in the car, still having to face homework.
The three well-established schools above are the most obvious choice for the needs of the native English-speaking community in Moscow plus the International School of Moscow (ISM) and the Moscow Economic School. There are some nation-specific schools such as the Swedish, Korean, German, Deutsche Schule Moskau and French, namely the Lycée Francais Alexandre Dumas, which is hopefully as adventurous as its namesake’s most popular heroes and has a high proportion of French passport holders.
Newer kids on the block include the Cambridge International School and the STEM focussed English School of Science and Technology (ESS). The most recent arrivals (since 2016) are Britannia School and Brookes Moscow. Finally, there is an alternative Christian American school, Hinkson Christian Academy and the Russian International School, teaches an English curriculum but has an almost entirely Russian audience.
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 Moscow considered by expats'.
Special Education Needs
Unfortunately Russia overall hasn’t been as well-organised for special education needs as in other countries, lagging well behind the UK or US. Students used to be taught away from the mainstream in separate schools. Language is also a problem and, as the international schools aare reasonably small, they were only set up to a certain extent for SEN.
This situation is improving and in recent years, international schools have developed special education services for children with mild to moderate needs. The Anglo-American School employs an educational psychologist and schools, such as the Nord Anglia run International School of Moscow now assess all new children and also has a SENDCo (Student Support Service) teacher on site.
Entertainment of small (and large) children
When hunting for suitable schools, it is worthwhile taking entertainment and after-school activities into account as well. A child who is used to a house and garden may end up living in a high-rise apartment block. In this case, you will need to ask what sports and extra-curricular activities are provided year round by your child’s school as these become crucial in terms of diversion and boredom distractors.
www.atlasobscura.com/things-to-do/moscow-russia has brilliant suggestions for more unusual outings such as Bunker-42 (a Dr Strangelove-esque tour of Stalin’s bunker) or the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics, complete with Madame Tussaud-type figures. Failing all else, you could always take them for a day out on the underground to choose their favourite Metro Stations or let them loose in Golosov Ravine, a green sanctuary in the middle of Moscow, populated by legends of time travel and magical woodland creatures.
Being posted to Moscow in the 21st century is a far cry from the days before the wall came down but it is still a very different cultural experience and most expats feel safer sending their children to the better established international schools.