Finding an International School in Portugal

Robert Taylor, Head of the International Preparatory School of Carcavelos, Portugal ( offers some practical advice to parents, HR and relocation agents wanting to find the most appropriate schools for children relocating to Portugal.

Robert Taylor, Head of the International Preparatory School of Carcavelos, Portugal ( offers some practical advice to parents, HR and relocation agents wanting to find the most appropriate schools for children relocating to Portugal."When faced with the opportunity to relocate to Portugal, one of the most important decisions for families will be to find the right` school for their children.For some, the prime opportunity will be for their child to learn an additional language. This might be by enrolling into a local school, or into an English language medium international school.The international schools in the Lisbon area vary in what they provide.It is therefore essential that parents are informed of the various schooling options available and that they know what type of&#x;education&#x;they are searching for. Some key points to look for are:
  • Curriculum offered
  • Size of the school and of the classes
  • Homework load
  • Location
  • Facilities
  • Languages spoken and taught
  • Nationalities represented, both in terms of pupils and staff
  • Extra curricular activities on offer
  • Parental involvement
  • Parents of very young children should be aware that formal education in Portugal only begins at the age of six years. If choosing a local school this may well be of concern. However, most of the international schools in the area have Nursery classes and many will take children from the age of three.
Once enrolled in a school, parents might find that their children live quite some distance from their classmates. Therefore travelling and sleepovers are common in order allow for good social interaction.Parents should be given the opportunity to visit schools and to see for themselves how they are welcomed as this will surely also reflect on how their children will be welcomed. There is no better way than walking into a classroom to see whether the teaching and learning is of a quality aspired to, and how happy the children are to be part of the school. If a visit isn`t possible then how the school represents itself through its prospectus is also important as a lot can be learned from the images used as well as the words written."We asked Mary Langford de Donoso, Education Consultant with Humphrys` Education Ltd ( for her expert views having worked at 5 International schools and now also helping parents find the best schools for their children."One important consideration is the authorising` or accrediting organisation. Who inspects the school, how is that done and with what frequency? International schools in Portugal that have been approved through COBISEC, CIS, the IBO or NEASC, for example, have been visited by known accrediting UK, US or international educational organisations and this is an important form of professional endorsement. (Note that candidate status with the IBO is not the same as being authorised. CIS offers both accreditation and membership; membership alone does not signify accreditation.) If schools offering the English National Curriculum do SATs at the various keystage levels, find out how they are marked and assessed, as these are no longer done as part of the overall domestic UK cohort. Another resource is parents colleagues or friends who know the Portuguese schools. Of course a parent`s opinion is just that an opinion but it may help you to formulate your own impression. The Good Schools Guide, a well-established British educational directory popular with many parents, now has an international website ( which contains lots of information written by parents on the ground in overseas locations.Relocation&#x;agents in Portugal are another source of information. Those who are members of EURA (European Association of Relocation Agents) and offering school searches should have completed a training session to be able to claim this area of expertise, so ask about this if you are working with a relocation company. If you are referred to an educational consultant, be sure that he or she is appropriately qualified and working for you as the client and not the schools!"
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