Guide to Schools, education and colleges in Spain
Education is obligatory for all children aged 6-16 if the parents are legally resident in Spain and is free from pre-school to 18 years.
However as pre-school is not obligatory, not all children can gain a place.
State school education
State education is free, but parents must usually pay for school books (which are expensive, although they are provided free in certain cases), school supplies and extracurricular activities. For most Spanish children, school starts with nursery or pre-school at the age of 4 or 5.
Compulsory education begins at six years of age in a primary school and lasts for ten years. At the age of 16, students receive a school-leaving certificate, which determines the course of their future education.
Attending at a local state school helps children integrate into the local community and learn the language and is highly recommended if you plan to stay in Spain indefinitely. Although it may not appeal to them initially, if given the choice later, many foreign children prefer to attend Spanish school and become part of the local community. Changing from a private school to a state school can cause problems at a later date as a teenager could find it hard to adjust.
A note from Spanish-Living.com about the public school system on the Costa del Sol:
Over the last decade, the foreign population (especially the Brits) has risen dramatically. This to some degree has had an adverse effect on the quality of education in some of the schools where there are so many mixed nationalities. Many families arrive and put their kids, of anywhere between 6 and 16, without a single word of Spanish, straight into the local school system. And because the teachers themselves have very little English – even in places such as Fuengirola and La Cala de Mijas where the English have been coming for 20 – 30 years or more. Consequently, many of the classes move at a much slower pace than might be considered challenging enough for your child. If you can afford it, go private.
Schools like Aloha, EIC and Swans are expensive – it works out at around 1,000 Euros per month per child and you still have to pay for the books, uniform and materials on top. There is a cheaper alternative though. Our children go to a small private Spanish school where the costs are much lower. It works out at around 300 Euros per month per child and the school really is excellent, strict but none the less excellent. All of the children are really well turned out, polite and studious. The teachers are firm and passionate about leaning. They are also caring and patient. We converse with the school on a regular basis regarding our children’s education and they are more than willing to sit and listen to us practising our Spanish in order to put forward our thoughts and concerns.
Another thing that keeps the Spanish ticking along is Los Deberes – homework which at times can be hard. After a long day at work, we have to then get through about 1 and a half hours of homework. Our little girl hasn’t even started getting proper homework yet so this is likely to rise. Who said it’s all sun and fun on the Costa del Sol! I have to say though that the best way to learn a new language is when you have to.
For kids though who enter the school system early on – say between 5 – 8 the language should be no problem. When our boy was 5 he was leaning Catalan, Castellano and English. He was (and still is) mixing with kids from many different countries and will often come home and say something in Dutch or French. At that age, children are like sponges and don’t stop to consider things like language, it’s all just words! Both our son and daughter are now as fluent in Spanish as they are in English (if not more so).
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