How to Apply to a Saudi International School

Do you want to apply for a place at an international school in Saudi Arabia? Here is everything you need to know about the admissions process for students.
How to Apply to a Saudi International School
By Carli Allan
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Looking for an international school in Saudi Arabia for your child from 2023 or beyond? Choosing a school in an unfamiliar country can be a challenge, and with over 200 international curriculum schools offering a choice of UK, IB, Indian, US and French curricula, it's not an easy decision to make.

As part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 for the future, the Ministry of Education has launched an ambitious strategy to raise the quality of education. In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of private international schools opening, a rise in the number of Saudi nationals attending private schools, and a growth in the expat population.

To help you navigate the application process, here is's guide on admissions requirements, paperwork, cost, and deadlines, along with the expert advice from two of Saudi’s newest international schools.

Beech Hall School Riyadh is a new international school in Al Khuzama, Riyadh. Aldenham Prep School Riyadh is a British curriculum school that opened in the Al Noura, As Sahafah area in the north of Riyadh in September 2022.

What do I need to know when applying to a Saudi international school?

Aldenham Prep School Riyadh opened in the Al Noura, As Sahafah area in the north of Riyadh in September 2022.

The majority of private schools are in Riyadh and Jeddah, although there are also schools in areas such as Dammam, Dhahran and Al Khobar in the East Provinces. In line with practice in many Middle Eastern countries, many schools are only co-educational until Years 4-5/Grades 5-6 and then students move into single sex schools. Many schools have a high percentage of Saudi students studying alongside a very international community of boys and girls.  

The school week runs from Sunday to Thursday, in line with the Saudi working week, and the academic year is typically August/September to June/July. The curriculum includes Arabic and Islamic Studies, taught by Saudi Arabian qualified teachers.

Matt Aston, Head at Aldenham Prep School Riyadh, has this advice for parents.

"There are many international schools in Saudi with a range of ownership and operating models. Aldenham is proudly owner-operated, and shares leadership with the UK school, a rarity in British schools overseas. 

"Key considerations would be, what do I get for my money? Where are the teachers from and what is their qualification level? And finally, is there an opportunity to attend this school back in the UK if I have to travel back again (or could my child board in the UK at this school if we need to move again?) Ultimately, you are looking for quality and stability for your children."

How do I apply to an international school in Saudi?

Beech Hall School Riyadh has a non-selective admissions process.

Entry requirements will vary depending on the school, and your child may need to complete a school assessment/entrance exam or attend an interview; this can evaluate English language proficiency, academic potential and social behaviour. Some schools do require proficiency in Arabic.

Beech Hall School Riyadh claims to be the first fully inclusive school with a non-selective admissions process in Saudi, which means that children do not have to sit an entrance exam or assessment to join the school community.

Mrs Knight (Beech Hall School Riyadh) outlines the school’s inclusive admissions process.

We always encourage parents and their children to visit our school before making an application – where this is not possible, then we offer virtual meet and greets. The paperwork can be a little complex, however we guide parents through it, and our team will happily meet with parents if they need it.

“All school reports from Grade 1 (age six and up) require attesting from the Saudi Embassy in the country the children previously attended school in. This is the first and most important part- without this, we cannot register the children on the Noor system (which is where all children are legally registered, regardless of background, in the Saudi education system.)

"Parents also need to provide copies of their Saudi ID (Iqama), passports for both parents and the children applying to school, alongside health forms with up to date vaccinations.

"We understand that this differs from country to country and again, our team can guide parents who have questions.”

Mr Aston (Aldenham Prep School Riyadh) adds:

"All schools have slightly different processes. Some are very much manual processes with forms to fill in by hand and return in person. Others, like Aldenham, do it all online from initial request for information or booking a visit, right through to signing the final contract.

"Along the way, you will usually need to provide recent school reports, medical or educational reports if there are any, and identity documents like passports or visa numbers. If they have not yet been given - they will be requested later.

"All high-quality schools will charge admissions fees, including registration and acceptance fees at a minimum. Processing a school admission takes time and all parents should expect the school to take it seriously. They want their child to end up in the school, which is right for them, so expect to have assessments either in school or online, and interviews - even for the parents."

What documents will I need when I apply to private school in Saudi?

While every private school in Saudi will have its own admissions procedure, there is a standard list of paperwork required.

  • Completed and signed application form 
  • Application fee
  • Passport size photographs of your child
  • Original and photocopy of child’s birth certificate
  • Photocopy of child’s passport
  • Photocopy of parents’ passports
  • A copy of Saudi ID or Residency ID (Iqama) for expats
  • School reports
  • Child’s vaccination record; there are immunisation requirements from the Saudi Ministry of Health
  • All children who are joining from a school in Saudi are required to provide a leavers certificate from their previous school.
  • Any speech/language, educational psychology testing, or learning needs evaluations/records (if applicable).

When should I apply to a Saudi private school?

Aldenham Prep School Riyadh says it offers “an exceptional British education for boys and girls from age 3 to 11".

While some of the well-established schools may have waitlists for certain groups, other schools have a rolling admissions policy with immediate places available.

As Mrs Knight (Beech Hall School Riyadh) explains:

“All schools are different, and we advise that parents contact their chosen school to ask. Beech Hall School Riyadh is fortunate to be on a purpose built campus, close to the DQ and is accepting rolling admissions.”

Mr Aston (Aldenham Prep School Riyadh) adds: 

"International schools understand that there may be pupil movement throughout the year as contracts for ex-patriates can begin and end at any time. This can mean that admissions may remain open all of the time to the extent that places become available. The best thing to do is to approach the school, explain your personal circumstances, and ask for further information.

"International schools will expect families already living within the city to contact them well in advance of the new academic year which begins in August. Contacting the school up to six months in advance ensures you have the best opportunity to understand what the school offers, the registration process, and to understand the next steps."

Planning on moving to the country? Well, it's possible to apply to a Saudi school while still living overseas.

Mrs Knight adds: 

“However, to be able to apply for documents to be attested and for us to register children, one parent will need their iqama in place. The best course of action is to always contact us, we will always be able to advise on specific cases and offer guidance where we can.”

Does my child have to be fluent in English?

Some private international schools, where English is the main language of instruction, do accept students who are non-English speakers in the early years and primary. Your child's English language skills will often be assessed during the application process.

There are some international schools giving priority to nationals of their country.

How much does it cost to study at a Saudi international school?

Beech Hall School Riyadh will open its Grade 9 classes for girls and the lower Secondary Boys section (from Grades 7 to 9) in September 2023.

Costs will vary across the range of international schools in Saudi Arabia, from SAR 4,000 to over SAR 90,000 a year. When reviewing the cost of your child’s education, you will need to factor in the tuition fees, additional charges for school transport, trips, exams, uniforms, and extra-curricular activities.

Where can I find out more about international schools in Saudi Arabia?

Click here for independent reviews on international school, with information including curriculum, fees, facilities and exam results.

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