The International School of Nantes: To bilingualism and beyond
Text: Hannah Jane Thompson | Photos: Unsplash
Many international schools would pride themselves on offering high-quality language tuition, but for The International School of Nantes, that is only the beginning. Set across two campuses in the western Loire-Atlantique city – the sixth-largest centre in France – the school offers a truly bilingual programme, enabling students to master both English and French. For example; French, history and maths are taught in French; while English, geography, science and sports are in English.
All teachers are native speakers in their given languages, and lessons are based on either the French or English national curricula. Students are regularly tested using the internationally-recognised Cambridge English exams, to ensure that their skills are improving consistently, so their bilingualism becomes a lifelong, invaluable skill. “To be perfectly bilingual; to master two languages – it opens so many doors,” explains headmistress and director, Nathalie Paulin. “And we offer a truly bilingual experience.”
But the real difference at The International School of Nantes goes far beyond language. Its caring environment, which treats every child as an individual, is what really sets it apart. Whether at the Nantes Guist’hau school (for nursery and primary education), housed in a beautiful city centre ‘maison de maître’, or the nearby Saint-Herblain campus grounds, which besides the primary school include an expansive forest (for the high school and the creche), pupils are taught in an attractive and peaceful setting.
Focused on the individual learner
Across all levels, each class is capped at just 15 pupils, ensuring that teachers have the capacity to adapt lessons to suit the individual learner. This is key, as some pupils arrive speaking neither English nor French, and others have varying abilities and knowledge, depending on their background, nationalities, home cultures, previous countries or school environments. “Our team is very motivated and loves their jobs,” says Ms. Paulin. “They are constantly training in how to understand why one child might be better at this, and another might struggle; and how to help them learn differently.”
Herein lies another of the school’s stand-out qualities: teachers here stay up to date on the latest neuroscience, with research recently proving that paying attention to children’s developing brains, rather than expecting everyone to learn in the same way, is key to fulfilling each pupil’s potential.
The school also offers piano and guitar lessons, as well as a programme called Mind and Body Health, which includes daily yoga classes and attention training (similar to mindfulness meditation), and philosophy workshops from the age of five. “It’s so important to develop these skills,” says Ms. Paulin. “Concentration, curiosity, motivation. To talk about friendship, cooperation, respect, diet, brain function, sleep… It’s about enabling pupils to understand these tools, which will become part of their lives, if they aren’t already.”
This compassionate approach extends to the school’s community, which prides itself on offering a warm welcome to all families. Parents and teachers work hard to create a caring environment, and the appropriately-named weekly ‘Happy Club’ also allows working parents much-needed support after hours or during school holidays. “Our parents do a huge amount for the school,” explains Ms. Paulin. “If foreign families arrive, they are quickly able to find friends, a sense of community, and a social life. That’s quite unusual for schools in France.”
Vibrant, compassionate and academically rigorous
This adaptable, international approach reflects the school’s place at the heart of Nantes: a cosmopolitan, culturally – and historically – rich French city with a genuinely global vision. More major companies are opening offices here – including aircraft giant Airbus and global consultants Accenture – and Nantes mayor Johanna Rolland regularly states her intention to open the city even more. In such a fast-changing world city, the need for a vibrant, compassionate and academically-rigorous international school such as this has never been greater.
Website: www.isnantes.fr Campus Saint-Herblain: Rue Olympe de Gouges 15, Saint-Herblain Campus Guist'hau: Rue Marie-Anne du Boccage 1, Nantes The International School of Nantes runs Open Days to any potentially-interested pupils and their families. Parents are also invited to make an appointment with director Nathalie Paulin directly, to discuss their child’s individual needs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (+33) 02 404 005 87
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