Schooling In 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
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
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
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
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:
http://www.top-tour-of-spain.com with its FREE monthly newsletter, "The Magic of Spain".