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Schooling In Spain

by Linda Plummer - Top Tour of Spain

Families planning to live in Spain often worry about the sort of education their offspring are likely to get and ... how to go about getting it!

For those with the financial means and inclination, there are several good, international private schools throughout Spain, many of long standing. But, not everyone can afford these: my daughter, for example, was educated at the local state Spanish school and I, certainly, have no complaints.

If you are settling in Spain and wish your children to attend the local state school, you must first be registered on the "Empadronamiento".

This is surprisingly easy and you need not be resident or have a NIE number. Just go to the local Town Hall ("Ayuntamiento") with passports, copy of "escritura" (deeds) if a property owner, or your rental contract if not, and ask to register. You will be given a "Volante de Empadronamiento" - a document confirming your entry.

The Spanish state schools provide free education for children from the age of three onwards although, unlike Britain, you have to pay for all their books.

There is no uniform, but infants are expected to wear a little overall, usually a sort of blue-and-white checked affair.

School hours differ from the UK: infant and junior schools start at 9 am, break for lunch at either 12 noon or 12.30 pm, recommence at 3 pm or 3.30 pm and finish at 5 pm.

Nowadays, children can usually stay for school dinners, and there are extra-curricula activities to occupy them during the long lunch break.

In the hot summer months of June and September, school hours are shorter - 9 am until 1 pm - with no afternoon lessons.

Secondary or high school ("instituto") hours differ. The youngsters start earlier - at 8 am - and finish about 2 pm, with no afternoon lessons.

Children will certainly enjoy the Spanish school summer holidays as they are quite long! Younger children receive about 10 weeks and secondary/high-school children, about 3 months! (Did I hear Mum and Dad say they´ve decided against coming to live in Spain!)

Children must remain at school until the age of 16, when they should matriculate by passing their ESO - "Enseñanza Secundaria Obligatoria". I suppose this is the equivalent to GCSEs in Britain. However, you have to pass the whole curriculum, not just individual subjects. At the time of writing, this consists of some 14 subjects and, if you fail three or more, you have to repeat the whole year!

For the academically inclined, after completing ESO comes the "bachilllerato" course - equivalent to British A-levels - which you need for university entrance.

Perhaps your child successfully completes ESO but would prefer a work training course of some sort. Should this be the case, s/he can opt for one of the many "formación profesional" courses. Tourism, administration, computers, electrical work ... there is a multitude to choose from, most lasting about two years.

"Formación profesional" (FP) courses come in two grades: middle and advanced. For the middle grade, you will need your ESO; for the advanced, you will need your "bachillerato" or FP middle grade.

But what about the youngster who has not successfully completed ESO? Well, there are a number of courses called "módulos", where s/he can obtain a training, for example telephonist and reception work. And, of course, if bi-lingual, with basic computer knowledge and a driving licence, s/he could probably find work without any specialist training, in particular in tourist areas.

So ... perhaps Spain is no different from most other countries: there is a suitable niche for everyone and, if approached with enthusiasm and vigour, it is surely possible to be successful in whichever field is chosen!

Linda Plummer is English and has lived on the Costa Blanca in Spain for 20 years. She is webmistress of: with its FREE monthly newsletter, "The Magic of Spain".

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