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Education in Spain

Published 17/06/2009

The education for your younger ones is always an important factor in moving house, even more so when moving to a different country with the added difficulty of a language barrier.  Here are some of the most important points to Spanish Education and the different types available...

For the growing number of younger families coming to live and work in Spain, prior information about schooling and education for children is important.

There are two options: (i) the Spanish state school system (where the teaching will naturally be in Spanish), or (ii) private international schools.

(i)  The Spanish State School System
Children, particularly those of infant or primary school age, find it very easy to adapt to a new language and tend to cope very well at Spanish-speaking schools, becoming fluent in their new language with amazing speed.  However, all children will go through an adjustment period, during which time little academic progress should be expected.  State education is free, but parents have to buy all textbooks and materials.

Nursery education for children up to 3 years of age is provided by some town councils, usually at reasonable fees (or, as in Torrevieja, free of charge for those registered on the Padrón).  Hours are usually from 8.00 am to 5.30 pm. 

Infant and Primary education is for children from 3 to 12 years of age.  Infant education (Educación Infantil) lasts for 3 years and, where the facilities are available, children can usually start at age 3 for a small fee – this is because free full-time compulsory education does not start until age 6.  Primary education (Educación Primera) begins at age 6 and lasts for 6 years.  All classes are mixed ability, with no streaming.

Children are normally registered in May for admittance at the beginning of the school year, in September.  You may be required to list 3 schools in your order of preference.  In some areas there is a means-tested points entry system (ie points awarded for certain criteria).  The school day is usually 9.00 am to 12.00 or 1.00 pm, then 3.00 pm to 5.00 pm, with children either staying at school or going home in the lunch break.  Packed lunches are not allowed in Spanish schools, and this means that if your children cannot return home at lunchtime they will have to have school dinners - the dishes will be Spanish and the portions can be quite large, and the children are expected to eat!  Poor or fussy eaters will have to get used to being more adventurous. 

Secondary education is compulsory for children from 12 to 16 years of age and is called ESO (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria). A secondary school is called El Instituto and the school day starts at 8.00 am with either a divided day with two hours for lunch, or a continual day which finishes at about 2.00 pm.  If the child is entering from a school outside Spain, you will  need to provide any examination certificates and a report from the previous Headmaster (which you should get translated into Spanish).

At 16 children may leave school, may enrol on practical training courses, called Modulos, or may go on to a 2-year academic course called the Bachillerato after which they may take a university entrance examination.

(ii) Private international schools

Lists of private schools for all age groups can usually be obtained from your area Consulate.  Entry requirements, fees and syllabus will vary from school to school.  Of course, in addition to the tuition fees, you will also have to pay for text books, lunches, school uniforms and equipment, transport, activities and trips. Many of the British schools are members of NABSS (The National Association of British Schools in Spain) and details of the association and member schools can be found on their website at www.nabss.org.

Documentation to produce:
Whatever school you choose, you will need to take the following documents to register your child:-

• Child´s birth certificate
• Child´s passport (or identity document)
• Child´s vaccination certificates
• Child´s Social Security card and a medical certificate
• A copy of the child´s registration on the Town Hall register (Padrón)
• 2 photographs of the child
• Mother´s passport and marriage certificate (if applicable).

University Education – few grants are available so, to keep their expenses down, most Spanish students attend the University closest to their family home.

Linda Robertsson

Linda Robertsson
Tax Advisor

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