Education in Spain, State or Private School?
THE EDUCATION SYSTEM HERE IN SPAIN – PRIVATE AND STATE EDUCATION
When looking at education in Spain, one problem many expat parents have is whether to enrol their children in a Spanish state school or one of the many options of private schools in Spain. Which Spanish education system should you choose?
Choosing a school in Spain
School is mandatory in Spain for children between the ages of six and 16. But should parents need to hand their children over earlier, there are nursery schools for children from as young as nine months, and most children attend preschool between the ages of three and six.
The first choice to make is whether you want your child to go to a Spanish state school or a private school, which includes bilingual and international schools. Figures show that the majority of expats send their children to state schools in Spain, an experience that allows the child to integrate fully in local life and (depending on how young they are when they start) be speaking the language fluently within a year.
But immersing a child in a foreign language from day one may put pressure on them, beyond all the ordinary strains associated with starting a new school. The difficulty increases as a child gets older, and the education level more difficult.
In contrast, an international school enables your child to ease their way into school in a foreign country yet in familiar surroundings, with smaller classes taught in their language. But their level of Spanish may not be any better than if they had studied it as a second language back home, and they may integrate less into Spanish culture.
State schools in Spain
Details on how to register for State School can be found here.
Spain’s public schools have improved considerably in past years and the qualifications gained are valid if your child wants to study at a university elsewhere, such as the UK. However, in areas with large foreign communities such as the Costa Blanca, there can be a problem of foreign pupils flooding schools. The result is disrupted classes, inadequate teaching and worse exam results as teachers are unable to deal with so many non-Spanish speaking pupils.
Bear in mind, too, that if you send your child to a public school in, a proportion of classes may be in Valencian.
Another important thing to note is that the schools won’t be bilingual. You child will be completely taught in Spanish (or a regional language), with the exception of an English class as a second language for a few hours a week.
While the state school system in Spain has vastly improved, schools may still not be up to par with some private institutions and classes tend to be larger in the state system (up to around 30 children). However, that does not mean they aren’t any good. On the plus side, as they are non-fee paying, they are also considerably cheaper than private schools. Parents only have to pay for school supplies, books (although they might be expensive), extra curricular activities (such as sport, music and art ), or a small yearly fee (be sure to enquire about this as there are no set prices).
Since schooling is compulsory, within the state school system a lot more accommodations are made for non-Spanish speakers. For example, your child could be placed in a special, low enrolment classroom where he or she is then taught Spanish for non-native speakers.
Thus state schools can considerably aid a child’s leanguage learning, however, parents should note that complete immersion may not be for everyone, especially if the child is a lot older. A student will be made to repeat a year of school if they do not pass the standardised tests that are required at the end of every year.
There are no restrictions for foreign pupils to attend Spanish state schools. The first step is to register at your local town hall to get the document known as the empadronamiento, which shows you are a registered residence in that area. Check what your region’s exact requirements are, but you will generally need to take originals and photocopies of your passport, proof of address (utility bills etc.) and a rental contract or deed.
If you do choose to enrol your child in a public school get ready for a long and arduous trip into Spanish bureaucracy. You or your child may be required to:
- be interviewed by the school.
- provide a copy of your child’s convalidation record (the equivalent of an academic transcript). You’ll need to start this process before you leave your home country. Call the school well in advance to find out exactly what you need because it may differ or change over time, and consult the Spanish consulate or embassy in your country for details on the process;
- take a Spanish proficiency exam at the school.
- provide a birth certificate, passport, immunisation records, proof of residence, and proof of convalidation.
- ensure your child is enrolled in the right district, close enough to where you live.
School Holidays in Spain
The academic year in Spain runs from mid-September to mid-June, with the main holidays at Christmas, Easter and the long summer break. Spanish schoolchildren have very long school holidays (vacaciones escolares) compared with those in many other countries. The school year is made up of three terms, each averaging around 11 weeks. Terms are fixed and are generally the same throughout the country, although they may be modified in autonomous regions to take account of local circumstances and special events (such as local fiestas).
Pupils transferring from primary to secondary school are sometimes given an additional two weeks’ summer holiday, which usually includes an ‘end of school’ trip (viaje de estudios) with fellow pupils. Schools are also closed on public holidays when they fall within term time.
School holiday dates are published by schools and local communities well in advance, thus allowing parents plenty of time to schedule family holidays. Normally, you aren’t permitted to withdraw a child from classes during the school term, except for visits to a doctor or dentist, when the teacher should be informed in advance.
Specific details for this area.
School times – From 09.00am to 17.00pm from October to May inclusive.
09.00am to 13.00 – June and September when the weather is hottest.
At lunch times pupils can either stay at school or return home. If they stay you have to pay for school dinners the price on average is 4.10€ or 4.20€ a day, (that is for a 4 course meal with a water and a piece of bread for that!!). The food is typically Spanish and the menus are worked out by nutritionists to be really healthy… they get a lot of fish, fruit and veg…..
Packed lunches are not permitted
Generally transport is provided free if you can prove you live at least 2 Km from the school. If you live closer but still need the use of the school bus the fee is around 90€ per child per month.
Education is Free in State Schools but you have to pay for all text books etc the typical cost works out at around 200€ per child, per year.
There are 3 evaluations per year and children are required to get an average of 5 out of 10 to pass a subject. At the end of the school year, if a child fails two or more subjects then can repeat that school year.
There are two official languages in the Valancian area, Castillian and Valenciano