Reykjavik, Iceland Report of what it's like to live there - 07/09/22
Personal Experiences from Reykjavik, Iceland
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?
4-5th grade/8-9th grade
3. What years did you live here?
4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
There is another school (International School of Iceland) but I chose Landakotsskoli based on the teachers' qualifications, curriculum, and location of the school.
Admissions & Welcome:
1. Are the admissions and placement procedures clearly stated to prospective families, either on the school website or through other means of communication?
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
We arrived during COVID, so perhaps it's not a good basis to judge, but there was no new family orientation. It's small enough, though, that we were able to meet individually with administrators and teachers before the start of the school year.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
They use an Icelandic website linked to Iceland's national ID (Kennnitala) system for communication with parents, and this is problematic for international parents who aren't in Iceland's ID system. The school is aware of the problem and has increased communication directly via email. There are often last-minute changes to school schedules, particularly in the after-school program, which can cause disruptions. Communication with the mostly American staff of teachers has been excellent, with teachers responding by text or phone call during the school day.
2. Aside from school fees, are there required expenses such as uniforms, laptops/tablets, musical instruments, or field trips that parents are expected to cover? What are the approximate costs?
No uniforms or music program. Field trips cost extra but the fees are reasonable.
Academics & Resources:
1. What personal or academic counseling resources are available at this school? Is there a dedicated college counselor at the school? Is he/she familiar with universities worldwide?
I don't believe there's a school counselor, and the school ends after 10th grade. There wasn't much discussion of universities or admissions processes.
2. Is there before and/or after-school daycare available? What are the costs?
There's an after-school program through grade 4. After that, there are some clubs, but the kids are done by 2:30pm most days. Icelanders tend to do extra-curricular activities in their neighborhoods and not in schools so it's much harder for expat families where both parents have to work. My kids weren't involved in extra-curricular activities.
3. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
Just a few bookshelves and not a real library. The kids can borrow books.
4. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?
I was happy that the school doesn't use too much technology. They have Google Classroom, where their assignments are posted, and there are some assignments completed in Google Docs and online, but they aren't on screens all day (which is a good thing!)
5. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
The kids seem to have ample exposure to IT.
6. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
PE is done at a local gym and swimming classes (mandatory in Iceland) are held at an outdoor heated pool in the neighborhood. While the school lacks certain amenities, I like that the kids are exposed to local culture by using neighborhood amenities.
7. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
8. Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available in upper grades? If this is an IB school, is the full diploma required of all students?
No - which is why many kids go back to their home countries or boarding schools at the upper levels. My high school kids transferred back to the United States for 9th/10th grades and adapted very well to their honors/AP/IB programs - this is testament to the quality of instruction they received at Landakotsskoli.
9. Are students generally challenged appropriately by the curriculum? Please describe any particular strengths or weaknesses in this area. Do you have any thoughts how the curriculum is applied and implemented at this school?
Yes. One weakness I found was that the school "cut-off" date is later in the United States, meaning that if you have a child with a December birthdate, they will be pushed up a grade level. My kids skipped grade levels, which had me worried at first, but they did well. You should know that all kids are in combined grades (k-1, 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9-10, though this varies depending on enrollment). This is the case in both international schools in Iceland because there aren't enough expat kids to have one teacher per grade level. It seems to work fine.
10. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
11. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
Dance, fine art, and woodworking.
12. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
Yes - most of the teachers are expat Americans with Master's Degrees in teaching. Very happy with the teaching staff.
13. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
No formal program but some high school kids have taken advanced classes at the local university.
14. What services are available for students with learning disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
Not much. Most services in Iceland are provided through the national health service, which can be hard for expats to access.
15. What services are available for students with physical disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
The school is not accessible -- many stairs in the main building. There is at least one modular classroom that's accessible.
16. What extra-curricular activities (including sports) are available at this school? Have your children participated in these activities? What activities do you feel are missing at the school?
Almost no extra-curricular activities are offered except after-school clubs.
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. What is the climate for children with special needs? Is there a general attitude of inclusion for children with special needs?
Iceland strives to be inclusive, but as mentioned above, most services (speech, occupational, physical therapy) are obtained outside of school.
2. What is the climate for LGBT+ kids at this school? Are there resources they can draw upon? Does there appear to be any exclusionary behavior?
Iceland places a premium on social and emotional well-being, so I imagine the school would be a supportive environment for LGBT+ kids.
3. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
During COVID, the kids were largely segregated (international vs. Icelandic) for hygiene/disease containment. They were in-school, in-person the entire time, usually without masks, and so they tried to keep groups separate. Now that COVID has largely abated, there is more international between Icelandic and international students.
4. Are there are any problems with exclusionary behavior, cliques, or bullying at this school? Please describe any problems your children may have experienced in this area.
It seems that bullying is tolerated much more in Icelandic schools than it would be in the United States, and I have heard stories of kids being bullied without consequences to the perpetrator.
5. What is the climate for students who identify as ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious minorities at this school? Are there resources they can draw upon? Have your children had any experiences in this area?
The school is inclusive of ethnic, racial, and religious minorities.
6. What can you say about diversity among the faculty and staff at the school and their experience in supporting minority students?
The small size of the school enables the staff and faculty to provide customized support to kids, and I believe the school has been supportive of minority students. They have also had BIPOC on staff, which makes a tremendous difference for BIPOC kids and others students.
1. What letter grade (ranging from A, excellent, to F, fail) would you assign to this school based on your overall experience? Would you choose it again?
B+ and I would choose it again.
2. Please describe some of your child's/children's highlights and challenges during their time at this school.
My kids thrived in a small school environment and made friends for life. Their teachers were passionate. Despite the British curriculum, my kids were well prepared to transfer to a highly competitive US high school, where they are getting mostly "As" in their honors classes.
3. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!
I would urge incoming families to do their research. You might also want to wait and make a decision about the school after having visited each school.